Extinction by Featured Poet Alice B Fogel

(from “Natural Causes”—topical science-based poems in progress)

A rainforest is thick as thieves with the hidden.
More visible than motion is the weight
of time that hangs in the moss, the web of growth that holds
tight the air that holds the sounds
of bird calls and insect wings. Heat keeps their songs
close, knit into the thickened vines and leaves that hang
between every shape of green
and the refractions of feathered light. Found flying lately
here were the black-browed babblers,
bandit-striped, silver-breasted, their dark shades
imbued with illusions of blue.

Where in Borneo’s dripping forest had they been,
those little serious-eyed birds? For 173 years playing dead? Living
the bird’s life on a tropical archipelago
all the while their dusty holotype, that reference specimen
fitted with false eyes—yellow instead of their true umber—
lay taxidermied in the Netherlands. New species
got discovered—the way Columbus “discovered” America—
nearly every month, while this bird went on,
presumed extinct, among the ravagings of those presuming
they own everything. Soon after the babblers gave up

the ghost of extinction—for now—in a land of poaching
and fast deforestation, far off in another forest
the Australian bees, likewise masked, likewise in hiding,
turned up alive again in New South Wales and Queensland,
having gone missing for 100 years.
They showed once more their delicate teal and blue
and purple wings, their ant-like faces
white-striped, reviving their singular genus—Pharohylaeus
in three homes, isolated,
separated too far to ever see relations. Are they too
diminished? Maybe the irony

isn’t lost on them either, harboring as they do
in the remaining flame trees—with their clouds of red petalled
smoke smearing branches—and in the last unstolen
firewheel trees with their hubbed flowers
spinning sparks of molten gold from the tips of burning spokes—
all in the line of real wildfires and uprising weather—that now
that they are found, they’ll be lost to an irreversible extinction.

Poem and photograph by Alice B Fogel

Alice B Fogel served as the New Hampshire poet laureate from 2104 through 2019. Her latest book is Nothing But: a series of indirect considerations on art & consciousness. A Doubtful House is her previous collection, preceded by Interval: Poems Based on Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” which won the Nicholas Schaffner Award for Music in Literature & the 2016 NH Literary Award in Poetry. An earlier book, Be That Empty, was a national poetry bestseller. She is also the author of Strange Terrain, on how to appreciate poetry without necessarily “getting” it—which offers inroads to poetry useful for readers, reading groups, teachers, & writers. Nominated for Best of the Web & a dozen times for the Pushcart, she has been awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, & her poems have appeared in many journals & anthologies, including Best American Poetry, Spillway, Hotel Amerika, The Inflectionist, & The Southern Review. She works one-on-one with students with learning differences at Landmark College, & hikes mountains whenever possible. 



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Nothing But reveals the disruptions—welcome or unsettling—to our stream of consciousness that occur when we encounter the unexplainable. In these poems, such suspensions of linear thought become a beckoning toward transcendence, an opening both deeper into, and out beyond, our perceptions in an otherwise prescribed world.

A marriage houses two wildly distinct entities, each one in turn a form containing its own unruly spirit. Addressing its inhabitants with humor, love, sorrow, anger, confusion, and hope, A Doubtful House explores what happens to boundaries–psychological, emotional, physical, even syntactical–when people live together for a long time.

This series of poems responding to Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” pays homage to a 274-year-old masterpiece and, with the theme of spirit and embodiment that music—and life itself—evoke, renders from it a luminous new interpretation. Bach created the Goldbergs’ 32 sections using nearly all the styles of western European music at the time; Fogel responds in kind with a range of contemporary poetic styles, including narrative, lyric, and experimental, all confined within the 32-line structure she has borrowed from the composer’s 32-bar format. Interval mimics the “baroque” effects of overlapping melodies and harmonies by layering sound, syntax, and sense in multiple voices exploring self, identity, and being.