Mother Dawn

An overachieving meteor to kill them all
apart from birds, their more sinister brethren,

But the extinction of dinosaurs
was caused by Chicxulub
which sounds like
chicks going to the club
or a chic brand of lube
or a livejournal username that you thought sounded cool
and lived to regret
What could they regret? They did nothing wrong
Now we’ll never know what their eggs tasted like

All the Devil’s Tail does is set off
the laments of the birds

They mourn their counterparts so dutifully like a guilty spouse
awaiting the will which will bring down the ashes

Dawn and dusk will return
and they shall rise from their nests in
layers of dust that others had bitten

Devil’s Tail is no tale of the Devil because he hadn’t yet been born
Perhaps devils’ first formed feature’s
the tail
with the small arrow,
pointing to god.

It was their story, their gods all along:
The end of the world’s come and gone
before you were born

Maybe the Mayans were counting backwards
Maybe it’s called the rapture because of velociraptors

Cretaceous comes from Crete of strange creatures,
including the Minotaur, Crete which meant chalk
which teachers will use
on the board to
draw dinosaurs badly,
a string of Ariadne from then to here and now

Or more of a dress come undone by Penelope at night
on a mannequin made of fossil calcite
Penelope strikes me as a plucky triceratops
with her whole life ahead of her
little does she know of what’s about to happen

But it turns out the meek did not inherit the Earth
(by now they should have discovered that meekness is not enough)
Neither did birds
Who had no language or gods or financial projections
or recovery plans from the disaster

tiny animals
spring to action all around
marmots and mole rats, shrew types
who thrive in the shadows
feed on the carcasses
hide out in burrows
dig out their little tunnels
cut up their food
look for pockets of uncontaminated water

A round of applause for our worthy ancestors
that the dinosaur god failed to consider
Forgotten by the apocalypse, these
lionhearted underdogs of the Mesozoic era
go on to inherit the Earth, spread out the Mammalian agenda
much like a mousy yenta except she’s
invented the placenta: they call her
Mother Dawn and she’s four inches long
and she’s in your lineage
Thank you, tiny shrew
I sure hope you dined on the bones of those who had terrorized you

Then you got bigger and terrifying to imagine: from land dolphins who looked like hyenas
to giant sloths who sometimes broke from herbivorous diets
The valiant mice and shrews were once again disinvited and offered little defiance,
knowing one by one they would survive cetaceans and mammoths by the epochs

A triceratops toy for children over three
submerged in the bathtub so water will come out as pee
through the hole by its tail
An old joke that never gets old
as fungi probably multiply in the interior

The Squirrel from Ice Age
who repeats all you say
in a deranged voice, gives it three skips, then laughs

Penelope sews the Earth’s memory anew:
no flood, just piles
and piles of dirt
protecting its skeletons underneath
not to survive in the Ark, though it preserves
a moment just before shit hit the fan in the Yucatán

Museum of Natural History for the weekend
All I can think of is a deleted scene from Friends
season six, episode twenty-four, in which
Ross Geller, after a dinosaur documentary,
asks: “What happened, you guys?”


Click here to read Beatriz Seelaender on the origin of the poem.

Image: photo by Ellicia on Unsplash, licensed under CC 2.0.

Beatriz Seelaender:
This poem was written set to the tune of Georg Philipp Telemann’s Fantasia n. 10 in F Minor, 40:11 (I, II, III). The first part, describing the decline and fall of dinosaurs, is equivalent to the tempo giusto (just time), the bumpy second part on how the small mammals evolved jumps through the presto, and the last bit about more current times is the moderato, which works as a callback to the first part as well. Hence, it’s possible to sing these verses as lyrics to the score.
Though dinosaurs would not be (re)discovered for decades after the Fantasias were first published in Hamburg, the music dictated the subject: the idyllic yet looming atmosphere of the tempo giusto seemed to evoke time immemorial on Earth, its early childhood, and dinosaurs are such a huge part of early childhood it might just be a conspiracy to sell incontinent triceratopses. Either way, this is a poem about reframing of memories, both personal and historical. What is reshaped, what is deleted, and what manages to survive meteor strikes.

Beatriz Seelaender
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