Sunday, 20 April 2008

Extinction by Alistair Noon

So Diplodocus stood above recumbent T-Rex,
whose three-pronged avian claws and thalidomide armlets
pointed upwards. Triceratops charged into thin air.

Evening sun must have flitted through the treetops,
and from the opposite, leafless riverbank
coal wharves whined and clanked.


As the permafrost fled from Alaska
and the icebergs hailed New Zealand
– hell, how must the mammoths have felt –
autumn blizzarded in: beech and sycamore leaves
made low-level cyclones, jets graffitied slow lines
in the over-bright October sunlight, that year as last,
and pine needles lodged into the keyboards of laptops.

The last dog of the Western World, they say,
looked out of its shaggy hair:
Elohim, are you sure you know what you’re doing?


Friday at five, we’ve read, among the iBooks
and interlocking lozenges of the retro wallpaper,
the double espressos and mineral waters,
a young man would puff on his Lucky Strike,

leaning back in the corner, beneath a triple lampholder
with its brown lampshades and yellow light,
turning page after page of the book he was reading:

One email relates how male journalists at barbecues
would explain the aphrodisiac properties of tofu
to vegetarian women. It’s believed that birth rates
rose around Thai restaurants.

And experts have been comparing the lettering
on Lenin’s and Mao’s mausoleums
with those words on the wall whose sense eludes us:
“motörhead. new album”.


What else has come down to us?
That someone called Anthony strummed
as somewhere burned.
That Herod said Bring me the head
of Saddam the Assassin.
That there was no doubt about it,
it wasn’t no emissions
but Satan stoking the fires.


And Yahweh had said:
Here’s your light, here’s your dark.
They raised the all night Tescos.

And Yahweh had said:
Keep an eye on these beasts.
They put microchips in the heads of sharks.

And Yahweh had said:
Leave off murder.
They put heat ray guns on trucks.

And Yahweh had said:
Mind what you munch.
They fed their cattle their own brains.

Right then, Yahweh said,
you’ve got yourselves a flood.
You take a rest, they said,
leave it to us.


So Apocalypse didn’t take seconds but a century,
and needed no fire or ash.
Wet, warmer, with the atolls underwater,
they became the Etruscans, not quite
the nameless generations with scripts of bone and stone.
The tiger did not thank them, nor the bongo antelope.
We call them the Terminatores.


Southwest of Penzance our engine stopped,
clogged with pumice and ash, the sea’s new algae.
The sail kept still in the tropical darkness
till the current changed and we tillered to safety,
glimpsed shapes in blue light where, like a diver
ascending metre by watery metre,
lava had added again to its seabed cairn,
one more stone on the orbital image,
where insects and arachnids would float to on logs,
gulls nest, seeds and spores in their feathers
and flags take root on the next moon we would land on.


What else, before the ink faded and the Great Crash?
That a squirrel would scamper in and out of parked cars.
One day a sweeper might find it, send it to a landfill or incinerator
or leave it for the circling birds. That at night the rats would run
around the toppled reptiles.


Alistair Noon has been based in Berlin since the early nineties. Recent work of his has appeared at Litter, Jacket, Eyewear and Great Works (you can find links to these poems, as well as links to reviews and articles, via Alistair's myspace page). This June he will be guest-editing an online symposium on the work of Seán Rafferty at Intercapillary Space.

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