An Incidental Thing

Let me show you the bones,
the pale speckled breast of mortality.

Twenty thousand blackbirds fell from the star-scratched
Arkansas sky; dark fruit, blanketing a town.

Millions of bees dead in the green heat of Brazil.
A brittle scurf like brown pistils; windswept piles
rustling against doorsteps and windowpanes.

In Pakka Tibbi, Snowy Cranes rattle to the ground
from banyans and mango trees, and even
the child, all knobbed knees and pouched belly,
knows better than to eat them.

Bring the thing closer. Pilot whales cover a beach as far
as the eye can see, black shadowed curves against the white sand.
Gulls feast. The stink rises.

And still, it’s an incidental thing.
A study of cause and effect, of lines
drawn, of clock gears winding their flawless synchronicity
down. We shrug off a momentary dismay
return to our linen-dressed tables, silver reflecting
our faces in its polish, cups of delicate tea—
tender leaves plucked from remote hillsides—
congratulate ourselves on our refinements.

Like the shape of foxes—velvety fire
over the sharp skulls, the clever bones—
We see only the pleasing form;
not the disease rising.