I thought I was done writing about birds
but I forgot the terror birds. Forget the T. rex,
terror birds were worse: flourishing in the vacuum
of the disappeared dinosaurs, their dominion spanned
South America before they migrated north to master
two continents. There’s disagreement over how they fed—
kicking out with those terrible lizard feet, biting horses in half,
maybe using their head to bludgeon their food to death—forget
the method. It’s enough to envision the towering toucan,
three meters tall, big beak, flightless wings, looming over
some prone prey-body, descending. Their sole descendants,
the seriemas, share sharp talons and a territorial temper
with their forerunners, though they are much diminished. Surely
that scion fought its decline into shrunken bones and short
flights, yelping loud alarms to what was left of their kin.
Scientists surmise what finally wiped the terror birds out
was a change in climate, compounded by an inability to adapt.
Existence requires a gradual acclimation of the body
to the climate it now endures, and failure to evolve
has always meant extinction as long as nothing else
destroys you first. There’s no way to become what we
once were, but to be the shadow of our former selves
can be enough—as long as we survive in some small way.
Gretchen Rockwell is a queer poet currently living in Scotland. Xe is the author of two micro chapbooks and a forthcoming chapbook from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press; xer work has most recently appeared in perhappened mag, Whale Road Review, Poet Lore, FreezeRay Poetry, and elsewhere. Gretchen enjoys writing poetry about gender, history, myth, science, space, and unusual connections – find xer at https://www.gretchenrockwell.com or on Twitter at @daft_rockwell.