Last glimpses of the monocerote

Over the whole earth it is a common saying that the unicorn perished and became extinct at the time of the Flood, and that not a single individual of the monocerine species survived.

— De Monocerote seu Unicornu, Johann Frederick Hubrigk, Wittenberg, 1660

I

Who was it brought the Flood upon us this time?

John D. Rockefeller, the Old One in disguise,

the first to suck up fern rot by the million-barrel day.

Strip industry of the lion’s skin, you find the unicorn,

the beast that larked and rutted as the waters rose,

engineered these ruined smokestacks,

and gulfs that gored the high lands,

which have for their design the horn.

II

Tips of horns the few remaining islands,

where Appalachian ferns sluiced tidally by sea,

unfurl in salty rot, unfern in floating spore,

swimming wind as I swam sea

with these four hurting legs for land.

I found you hiding in the ferns,

ribbed and timid as a pier,

last female of our kind.

III

Lighting arcs across the air between our eyes.

We clung to flesh as to this land the wet is rivering.

The lightning-riven channels all widening within,

when you clenched the horn of me in the gulf of you.

Spore rains down inside the sea

towards the clutch of sediment below.

IV

I loved to look into your pools of grotto blue.

Is it just the sea glare shades them black?

Clear tidal pools I peered into

amid the ferns in afternoons

went black at dusk and turned light back.

They are thick with dying insects now

and, like the sea that leaves them,

rainbowed by a film of oil.

First published in Poetry Salzburg Review, No. 35, Summer 2020.

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