Erin Redfern is a writer and writing teacher in Silicon Valley. Her poetry has appeared in Zyzzyva, Iron Horse Review, and New Ohio Review, and is forthcoming in the anthology Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California (Scarlet Tanager Books). In 2015 she served as co-editor of Poetry Center San Jose’s publication, Caesura, and in 2015-16 as poetry judge for the San Francisco Unified School District’s Arts Festival. She is a recipient of the 2016 Robert H. Winner Memorial Award given by the Poetry Society of America. Her chapbook is Spellbreaking and Other Life Skills (Blue Lyra Press, 2016).
Author website: www.erinredfern.net
This condor is tagged and numbered
twice, once on each radius, a bright orange ember
against ash-colored wings. Her featherless head the scalded color
of pain. She flares her dark pinions and won’t despair. Condor,
do you remember the pinch and grip that made you “59”
and gave a slight, strange weight to your soar and bank?
Now epigeneticists are saying that what parents endure
may after all be passed on–a codicil to the genome’s intent.
Male mice smell almonds and freeze against their fathers’
shocked feet. Budding yeast carries the memory of sugar.
The Agouti mouse grows golden and round as an egg.
And so which of your single-hatchlings will be born
pre-adjusted to the snug fit of this tag? Which will gauge
from the smallest plastic flutter and bend
the import of altitudes and updrafts?
And might it someday miss this badge more
than the feathered crown your progenitors traded for a hood of gore,
the death you dip into for sustenance?
And will we, scanning the sunburned sky
for your white crossbar, look in our turn
like nothing so much as unhinged chromosomes
wandering the desert with our binocular sight,
shrugging our aborted scapula and humming
strange melodies as we scavenge for water and topsoil?
Will you follow our trail of histones to the horizon?
Will you see in us potential, at least, for a good end,
a last meal, one more improbable way to persist?
To Mr. Frankenstein, upon the Destruction Wreaked by His Work
Sick Victor, sad grad student, what good will one more nervous breakdown do,
really? Buck up your mealy mouth and be frank:
so your project didn’t pan out as you expected. Well, you cranked up
this mad merry-go-round and, like it or not, you’ll ride it out.
You’ll cling to your devil, cleave to his angelic strength,
his graveyard neck good as anywhere to bury your face.
He’s all you have left. Nestle close in his arms; he won’t throw you off.
Mistakes never do. He’ll stay with you, cradle your head in his fearsome hands,
hold back your hair when you can no longer stomach the perpetual spin,
the tinny, hilarious music, the bad choices, each upon each, that led you here.
What’s done is done. Don’t run. The past can carry you. Be borne
by his untutored strength. Step off the painted edge of this platform:
the machine is suspended in moonlight–rods and sweeps, ring gear,
each improbably saddled unicorn, each manticore and mare.
The forest is black. His eyes are lamps.
Your humility rises beneath you like the sea.