Endangered Species

Struggling on the sand in discount swimwear
thigh chaffing Walmart extra large

I tripped over the Monk Seal, six feet of it
cradled in the whiskered chops of
an oversized Mexican wrestler

in the stillness, closed eye completeness of
a twitter free Trump
opioid, beach ball headed Buddha, vice president

wearing its medal of red tracking tag, a small inlet of
hi tech plastic
a present from Shanghai, California.

It lay silent, complete in its otherness, in
its need be alone.

Later when I returned, this time with my kids
it had gone

It had left an indentation, mould, about my size
that I pressed myself into, while my daughter
took photographs.

Questions and Answers

Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?

I was inspired to write poetry while starting a two year work placement in an isolated community in northern Botswana. I wanted a way to capture and help process my kaleidoscope of new experiences. I considered writing a journal but soon realized that standard prose would not allow me to did deep enough into what was happening around me and allow me to really reflect the complex, multi faceted  nature of my new world. Poetry is a unique art form in that it can allow the  subjective and objective, fact and fiction, real and imagined to exist side by side and form a creative whole.  It allows me to combine the personal, political, known and unknown all in the one, hopefully well crafted, package.   

How/where do you find inspiration today?

I find inspiration for my work by looking into the eyes of the monster of our shared colonial history and gazing with delight at our incredible multicultural society that we have created.  I like to explore the layers of the personal, historic and sociological in a situation and reconvene these layers in to new shapes, that I hope, when all goes well, can give insight both for myself and my readers. This insight will however not try to bring certainty and closure in situations where that cannot easily exist. I certainly write to entertain and for people to enjoy but not as therapy.        

What inspired or motivated you to write this poem?

This poem (Endangered Species) comes from a chance discovery of a sleeping (and endangered) Monk Seal on a Hawaiian beach. By the time I returned with my kids to show them my find it had swum away. Not only could I identify with the seal’s somewhat tubby and aging body shape and also with the fact it was endangered- just like ourselves.  I was also aware my small children were disappointed. What else could I do but try and take the seal’s place and crawl into its spot, curl up on the warm wet sand. I got to be a seal and my children got to be entertained. It was a win win situation.      

This poem “Endangered Species” originally appeared in Literary History. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 233 (Summer 2017): 88.

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