to profile and possess for selfish purposes. I think of Incas,
imprisoned as his species was on the brink of extinction, no
crime committed other than being what he was. I see parallels
between the Gone Birds and who I am as a Black American man.
The mistreatment of nature, the disrespect for all those things
believed unworthy of enough respect to not drive them into the
pit of never-ness, has common plight among people who’ve been
slighted by practice, privilege, and policy. Extinction by human
hands is a sin. Racism is no di=erent. It is a callousness built on
judgmental whim. We are all part and parcel of nature, parakeets
and people alike. How we treat one another determines who we
all are — or might become. The good of it, our attempts to do bet-
ter by birds and other species as well as each other, spells hope
on one side. The upwelling of ignorance and denial of what’s
been, what is, and what could be, and a blind march headlong
into some unregulated regained greatness with the past as the
meter to follow—spells certain doom. It is an evil directed at
birds and humans, too. It is a callousness toward life that spells
endangerment, extinction, and exclusion.
In my constant quest for birds, thinking of those gone and then
reveling in the ones still with us, I also find a peace and momentary freedom from the bad that exists in the world. In my escapes
to places where birdsong drowns out the news stream and a soaring swallow-tailed kite blinds me to all else except the innate desire
to fly in self-determination and free will, the bad disappears for
a while and I too am marooned. I become a Maroon—escaping
certain bonds to find freedom in the deep recesses of wildness.
ONE HUNDRED YEARS since Incas died. In the years of wishful sightings since— a disputed sighting on the South Carolina
Those responsible for Incas’s well-being had to know
the species’ rare status as they watched his last moments.
What kind of relationship did he have with those keepers
in the Cincinnati Zoo? Did Incas respond to their voices
in parrot squawks and chortles, or maybe knowing parrot nods of his big-beaked head? What were those last
moments like? Was there a rift in the cosmos, or a ripple
somewhere “out there”? For a species whose disappearance lies in so many ill lots, many believed that those
final days of the last Carolina parakeet ultimately came
down to a broken heart. His mate, Lady Jane, had died a
few months before, and Incas was reported to be lonely.
A century later and there’s talk of “reversing” the
crime. Parakeet fanciers discuss resequencing genes
from dead birds in museum trays to reassemble a
Frankenstein-esque Conuropsis carolinensis. For me, the
de-extinction discussion is a hollow one. How does an
organism adapt to the missing gaps in time when it
didn’t exist? How does a species absent for a century
react to a landscape so dramatically altered as to present
a di=erent planet than the one it knew? Technology
tells us it may not be an impossible task, but maybe
Riddle at 29,000 Feet
you said marriage must sacrifice itself on the altar
of family, but this week i read about a man who
climbed back up everest to find his missing wife.
i wash moonlight from your forehead and the sphinx
in your chest asks again: What comes down but never
goes up? you never did learn how to waltz. the site
called rainbow valley earned its name from the bright
coats of all the climbers who never made it back
to base camp. the husband who went after his wife
is red is orange is blushing in the valley. love is such
an unreliable savior. What’s so delicate that saying its name
breaks it? the wife lived for two days in the cold. saving her
was too risky, climbers said. snow collected in her mouth.
the mountain whitened its history. she is blue is green
is singing when wind rides through her sockets. Who knows
if they had children. that’s not the story. ever, ever,
our happiness common, endurable. i ask what crazy thing
you’d do for me. answer, the rain. answer, silence.
— Traci Brimhall