Poems by Holly J. Hughes

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Extinct: Laughing Owl
Sceloglaux albifacies

by Holly J. Hughes

From Canary Spring 2014

Holly is happy to have landed in the Chimacum River watershed at the foot of the Olympic Mountains on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. For the last 30 years, she has spent part of each summer working on boats in the waters of the Alexander Archipelago of Southeast †Alaska.

A hundred years ago, on dark nights, their laughter
echoed over the green fells of New Zealand.

The settlers say the haunting notes of their laughter
--they called to each other -- came minutes before rain.

Languid during the day, the white-faced owls
were too easy to capture. They fed on a native rat,

the kiore, whose extinction brought on their own.
In 1905, a settler told how a laughing owl could

always be brought from its hiding place in the rocks
after dusk by the squeeze and wheeze of an accordion.

He told how the owl would silently fly over, face
the music, listen until the music ceased.

Inspired by Swift as a Shadow: Extinct & Endangered Animals by Rosamond Purcell.

Lecture on Coral Reefs

by Holly J. Hughes

From Canary Winter 2013-14

Tonight the scientist said, almost under his breath,
we are changing the ocean too fast for it to recover,

clicked to his next slide, his graph predicting
when the corals reefs will all be bleached:

one degree warmer, already the sea more acidic,
even with the melt from polar icecaps.

We squint as the line climbs the stairs,
then shoots straight up at 2020, ten years away

when the coral reefs will fade to gray
like the TV test pattern we watched as kids.

No yellow tangs hiding in crevices;
no blue parrotfish swaying in the surge.

We fall silent, stare as though it is a quiz
and we still canít believe we could fail.

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