American poet Peter Kane Dufault (1923 – 2013) was also a tree surgeon, pollster, fiddler and banjo-player. His writing career spans nearly sixty years. Here a simple poem about species extinction, because it is a topic I am upset about:
Kestrel too? Dwindling now?
That small falcon somehow
quarried out of a rainbow
in its saffron and ash-blue
blazons — and nary a one
seen yet, and the year half-gone?
Watching two of them once
tumbling among canyons
and crags of summer cloud,
I felt top-lofty, proud
to be in the same world with them.
But I suppose, even then,
it had been moot how much
longer they could live with us.
Some good news to begin with: the Mauritius Kestrel (Falcon punctatus) was nearly extinct fifty years ago but its population but recently, its numbers have soared. Dufault is talking about the American Kestrel, whose numbers are down by 66% compared to 2016 according to a 2016 article. Habitat loss and pesticides are to blame.
I like the strange language (to my ears) of the bird quarrying out of a rainbow in saffron and ash-blue blazons. It gives the bird its magic that we tend to forget if we’re not ornithologists. Dufault likens the sky and the earth again when clouds become canyons and crags. He seems to suggest changing places with the bird, seeing the world from the kestrel’s eyes. That causes the top-lofty feeling of pride to be in the same world with them. I like it when poetry does this, it’s why I admire W.S. Merwin and Wendell Berry.
Let’s hope it will not be moot how much longer any fellow creature could live with us.