“Melanoplus spretus” and “Nycticorax olsoni”


Melanoplus spretus

“Rocky Mountain locust”

And they shall cover the face of the earth, that one

cannot be able to see the earth . . . and shall eat every

tree which groweth for you out of the field: And they

shall fill thy houses and the houses of all thy servants . . .


—Exodus 10:5–6 (KJV)  


Sun-shuttering abundance, a music

deepened to machine, wind-sprung and thrumming

at the edges of everything. The sum

of all the scattered signals spindling out

from stars, the noise coincident in light

that animates the patchwork silences

of sky between radios, sounds in this.


The insects gnashed and spat, set listeners

ablaze with the million crackling statics

of their jaws.

              From the porch, you noted first                

the futile scent of kerosene, shining

in a ditch—lantern cracked and crimson-hulled—

when, ears attuned to the swarming field, you

heard human voices in it, dissolving

with the landscape: fence posts and hung linen,

the painted handle of your mother’s spade.                         – 1875


Once your labor’s eaten to its shadows,

you’ll kneel in moonscapes, this Grand Deletion,

and claw theodicies from knits of root.





Nycticorax olsoni

“Ascension night heron”

. . . we sawe such a multitude of birdes of diuers sortes with

coloured feathers, that the lyke was neuer séene in our tyme, 

the which came flying to our ships, and woulde reste vpon

vs, so that we might take them with our handes, and with

greate payne coulde we be ridde of them.


 —André Thevet, The New Found Worlde, or Antarctike (1568)


A florid holography, the seabirds

turning, ink-dark and mutable as rain,        

splutters of Ascension-blue: Isle of Gyres

some sailor once improbably mistook

for the mind of a god, a Poseidon-

of-the-South-Atlantic’s all-composing

thought, by votive flock lighted and lighting.


Small deaths diminished him.

                                                        Rat-black shadows

cast of men outlived their masters, teeming

shoreward, ship-borne. The island laid its feast

for vermin.

           A familiar story.


From what aery contemplations welter

on the wing-troubled cliffs, we cannot cull

the heron’s song, nor figure the flourish

it swept across the moon’s blind eye, haunting

seawater’s pale break like a history.






Images: Courtesy of Nathan Manley.