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THE ANIMALS ARE LEAVING
by Charles Harper Webb

One by one, like guests at a late party
They shake our hands and step into the dark:
Arabian ostrich; Long-eared kit fox; Mysterious starling.

One by one, like sheep counted to close our eyes,
They leap the fence and disappear into the woods:
Atlas bear; Passenger pigeon; North Island laughing owl;
Great auk; Dodo; Eastern wapiti; Badlands bighorn sheep.

One by one, like grade school friends,
They move away and fade out of memory:
Portuguese ibex; Blue buck; Auroch; Oregon bison;
Spanish imperial eagle; Japanese wolf; Hawksbill
Sea turtle; Cape lion; Heath hen; Raiatea thrush.

One by one, like children at a fire drill, they march outside,
And keep marching, though teachers cry, “Come back!”
Waved albatross; White-bearded spider monkey;
Pygmy chimpanzee; Australian night parrot;
Turquoise parakeet; Indian cheetah; Korean tiger;
Eastern harbor seal ; Ceylon elephant ; Great Indian rhinoceros.

One by one, like actors in a play that ran for years
And wowed the world, they link their hands and bow
Before the curtain falls.

SOURCE: “The Animals Are Leaving” appears in Charles Harper Webb‘s collection Amplified Dog (Red Hen Press, 2006), available at Amazon.com.

IMAGE: “Endangered Species” by Adrian Chesterman. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Charles Harper Webb was a rock guitarist for fifteen years and is now a licensed psychotherapist and professor at Cal State University, Long Beach. He has written five books of poetry, including Liver, which won the 1999 Felix Pollak Prize and Reading the Water, which won the S.F. Morse Poetry Prize and Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and Shadow Ball (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009).