Under glass, a bare forest of pins
held down an army of insects in ragged rows:
dung-beetle tanks, armored cars, caissons, and carts
towed white flags that bore the fancy names
they’d been given by the conqueror
and date of capture. The smallest ones,
collected when Darwin was just some young man
neglecting the study of divinity,
lay where they’d been glued to their tags,
waiting for stretcher-bearers.
On the other side of the island,
at the end of an aisle of skeletons,
I discovered a few finches a long way from home—
dead a long time, sooty feathers sewn shut
over wads of wool, feet tied with thread
into a faded bouquet of twigs and dance cards.
When I opened the door
of the museum devoted to every kind
but my own, the scent of salvation
tried to keep me out, moth flakes fighting
to keep the living from feasting on the dead.
This article available online at: