In the beforetime, under a different administration,
There were marsupial words, chameleon words in trees,
Words shedding their wings and tunneling in the sea –
Clever and strong, out-thronging all our mute associations.
Among them went the poor hunters of words, into a stark
And dreary contest. Most dissolved when spat on.
Or imagine being hopeful, small and sat on
By a behemoth epic myth lured from the dark.
Yet efforts did persist, since words were useful things,
As proven by certain midden-heaps of note
That show the bones of comedy cooked with votes,
And also oration hides made into slings.
Once in a while a tender soul took home
A gold-hoofed lyric antelope to feed — Winsome, admired,
but it would not breed.
Now all these creatures’ habitat is gone.
But wonder on wonder: Maybe cynically,
They left what could be hounded in the dust
By the henchmen of their perished captors — us.
From the ruins of that strange menagerie,
We sift the endless pails-full for a hoary
Vertebra or a molar, the single part
Left in the flattened cage of the world’s heart –
Evidence of a story of a story.
– SARAH RUDEN