Amy Lawless Jeff Alessandrelli

Review of May 19th, National Engendered Species Day (79,800 endangered species globally, 23,000+ of which are threatened with extinction out of 10) 

As of 2015, BirdLife has established that 1,375 bird species (13% of the total, or roughly one in eight) are threatened with extinction…25% of the world's 5,488 mammal species are currently threatened with extinction…The future for amphibians is at risk. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species shows that 41% are threatened with extinction primarily due to habitat loss, pollution, fires, climate change, disease and over-exploitation…Today, reptiles are threatened by habitat loss, over-exploitation, and climate change. The introduction of alien species to islands is also a concern for the survival of native reptiles. If action is not taken soon to protect these important species a long line of evolutionary history will be lost…

If I had a small child, I would encourage them
to enter the annual Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest.

Not to win, nor to attempt to provide awareness of a world
that, by the time they’re old enough to grasp and understand it,

will be irrevocably different compared
to the one they live in now.

Nor to showcase their burgeoning art skills on a national scale,
nor to commemorate this specific moment in time when humanity can change things

and simply has to desire that, has to desire to change.
I wouldn’t encourage my small child to enter simply because good artworks tell necessary stories

and every endangered species is a story worth listening to immediately, immediately yesterday,
and I wouldn’t encourage my small child to enter for mere participation credit, to promote their

knowledge of worldly matters that they might be entitled ignorance
over due to their young age.

No, I would encourage my small child to enter
only because light is the best disinfectant

and my small child’s painting would be filled with darkness,
alerting every witness to the truth

that the past is patchy and, today, tomorrow, the air doesn’t care.
Air don’t care, world a language

that my child’s painting would illuminate
is dying, sputteringly stuttered

by just a select few
and even their days of fluency seem to be numbered.

Known by everyone, this would help no one.
Most artworks are interesting not for their message

but for their mystery

and my small child’s painting would be bald and didactic,
ass first on the canvas.

I would find my small child the darkest of darks and they would paint. 
Skylight’s dominion is putrid today in my town and your town is no better.

Happy National Endangered Species Day! Tomorrow 79,800 species might be 79,799 species might be 79,801 might be and then where---

If I had a small child I would insist
that they enter the Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest.

Everywhere the light spreads like oil, dark and thick.          

 

Review of the Elephant (4.3 out of 10)

I.

Loving an elephant is an act of moral arithmetic a deep-sea dive into a plastic kiddie pool.
To love what you must hunt and capture in order to love well. Love as cruel and isolative, as wilful                
             injustice.

 

Like most, my IRL elephant-viewing is limited to the zoo and just once, when I was 8 in San
              Diego.
I remember nothing and a little more, that the grandeur so far away from me

 

in one sense yet mere yards away in another was a thing of massed proportion very much alive
and very much different than my own aliveness. I was 8, unsettled by what I could not
                        understand. Suddenly I wanted to go see the hyenas.

   

II. (World of Reference)

In her book My Dead, the poet Amy Lawless writes
“When an elephant dies
Sometimes the remaining elephants become distressed
Because there’s no evidence of an afterlife.

 

People like the word faith.
Elephants don’t.”
In his 1936 essay “Shooting an Elephant,”
George Orwell writes:

When I pulled the trigger I did not hear the bang or feel the kick—one never does when a shot goes home—but I heard the devilish roar of glee that went up from the crowd. In that instant, in too short a time, one would have thought, even for the bullet to get there, a mysterious, terrible change had come over the elephant. He neither stirred nor fell, but every line on his body had altered. He looked suddenly stricken, shrunken, immensely old, as though the frightful impact of the bullet had paralyzed him without knocking him down. At last, after what seemed a long time— it might have been five seconds, I dare say—he sagged flabbily to his knees. His mouth slobbered. An enormous senility seemed to have settled upon him. One could have imagined him thousands of years old. I fired again into the same spot.”

Knowing full well that the destruction the elephant caused in the small Burmese village was the result of (vast) human inconsideration, Orwell kills the elephant out of cowardice. A sub-divisional police officer, he cannot “look a fool” in front of those he has been charged to keep in line. This despite the fact that he hates his police work “more bitterly than I can perhaps make clear. In a job like that you see the dirty work of Empire at close quarters.” But death to the elephant nevertheless. A moral arithmetic where 2 + 2 = power and control, always.   

In response to “Most beautiful elephant video,” a YouTube clip that details the widespread “human-elephant conflict” in India and Asia, viewer Inge B writes, “[H]umans are the worst kind of animal.” A few lines below her JohnnyGomez19 comments, “I fucking luv elephants but im sad I’ll never see them just mad chillin in the wild.” “I love elephants to death” writes isavin1730, simply.

 

III. (Humanity)

The hyenas were missing or sick or it’s not important to recall. When I tugged my mother’s hand,
                 though, to return to the elephant sanctuary,

she tugged back—it was time to leave. In the car on the ride home I played my Gameboy, worked
                   the windows

up and down, over and over. What I’d seen at the zoo soon faded from immediate memory.

Life was a toy that I turned on and off at my leisure.
On my worst days now I think of a town that has outlasted the buildings that exist within it,
                 that comprise

its entire being, yet a town, impossible, that continues to live, even prosper.
Humanity, some kind of animal, all the everythings there are to get. 

On the best I work hard at forgetting to remember. Call it an act of faith, a childish ignorance,
every day the first day of my life.

 

IV.

Broadcasting live, the elephant cam at the San Diego Zoo is grainy, pixelated and prone to
                              blackouts, a challenging viewer experience.

No algorithm can fix it. Still, this morning, for hours, I watched and watched.

I couldn’t stop. 

 

Review of the Dolphin (JELL-O) (Sleep Apnea out of 10)

War harvests war. The dolphin in my dreams is reading a good book about revenge, one that involves the first dolphin to commit suicide out of fear and the first human to kill a dolphin for sport. They fit together somehow, with the splash of a single raindrop bright day turning into dark night. Dolphins have few natural enemies—humans are their main threat— and they entirely lack a sense of smell; they can’t scent out where other mammals instinctively know not to go, not to seek or swim. Too many amazing dolphin facts, so just two:

Killing a dolphin in ancient Greece was considered sacrilegious and was punishable by death. The Greeks called them hieros ichthys, or “sacred fish.”

In Rome, dolphins were thought to carry souls to the “Islands of the Blest,” and images of dolphins have been found in the hands of Roman mummies, presumably to ensure their safe passage to the afterlife.

 

Too many amazing dolphin facts, so just one:

 

  • Dolphins spend most of their lives holding their breath, for as long as 15 minutes at a time before surfacing for a half-second, then diving into the deep once again. They live their lives by drowning in steady increments.    

 

Circa 2018 dolphins are perishing by human hands via water pollution, fishing and hunting, but it’s the ones that are still swimming happily that concern me more. They are waiting without knowing it. A cold war with both sides stuck in place, the one not recognizing what the other insists be rendered unrecognizable. The rain that falls is different than the splash it leaves behind. Wet.

 

*

The dolphin in my dreams is stuck in a swimming pool filled with weeks-old J-ELLO. It’s vomiting up a 6-color-bright spectral rainbow, vomiting so hard that the immensity of the color abstraction appears as its own palette: the color of a rainbow.

 

Like all dreams, the sense of it is the product of a one-track mind backlit in shadowy black and white streaming in Hi-Def InstaColor surround sound. A straining to understand mixed with a desire to be interpreted (“Last night I had the weirdest dream…what do you think it means?”) rather than understood.  The dolphin is pushing so hard through the staleness that I, a mere bystander, am not worried for its survival. The more I watch it struggle, the more I’m worried for my own.           

 

 

 

 

Review of Dead Masai Lion (Make America Great Again out of 10)

 

Doing one-handed pushups in the dark while uncontrollably crying. This drizzle of unrelent in my head. I’m thinking back now to the lion, how after I killed it I wrapped its body in an American flag and drank a 12-pack of Budweiser. Looking down at its corpse, smears of blood intermingling with shockreds of dirt, empty red Bud in my still-shaking right hand and grabbing another as soon as I finished the first. The stars. I’d never been happier. Thinking about it now still brings me the greatest joy. I remember, I wade through chrome. Say it twice, twice as nice. Or by pushing my body to its brink tonight my body learns how strength can, in an instant’s exhaustion, turn to weakness. The glorious privation of freedom exposed with a single shot. I’m crying because I’m happy. The stripes. And these tears of mine mince time, memory. Hunting saves lives and that lion is as dead as dead can be. Rest in power. Majestic, kingly marauding. I love this studio apartment I live in because it has a great view of the alley. Dead ends. In the dark. Bud Heavy. Flag billowing, here I wade through chrome. I’m crying because I’m happy. Watch me.   

 

 

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