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In the beforetime, under a different administration,
There were marsupial words, chameleon words in trees,
Words shedding their wings and tunneling in the sea—
Clever and strong, out-thronging all our mute associations.

Among them went the poor hunters of words, into a stark
And dreary contest. Most dissolved when spat on.
Or imagine being hopeful, small and sat on
By a behemoth epic myth lured from the dark.

Yet efforts did persist, since words were useful things,
As proven by certain midden-heaps of note
That show the bones of comedy cooked with votes,
And also oration hides made into slings.

Once in a while a tender soul took home
A gold-hoofed lyric antelope to feed—
Winsome, admired, but it would not breed.
Now all these creatures’ habitat is gone.

But wonder on wonder: maybe cynically,
They left what could be hounded in the dust
By the henchmen of their perished captors—us.
From the ruins of that strange menagerie

We sift the endless pails-full for a hoary
Vertebra or a molar, the single part
Left in the flattened cage of the world’s heart—
Evidence of a story of a story.

Copyright 2017 Sarah Ruden