Large numbers of Tasmanian Devils are being wiped out
by the unyielding virus devil facial tumour disease (DFTD).
Numbers have reduced by 72% in the state of Tasmania.

In the headquarters of the immune system there are men
in suits hunched asleep at the control desk, with hands

holding empty polystyrene cups.
Hasty lesions like buttons take root in her mouth;
they spike the tongue with tumour nodes and push her teeth out.

With four unweaned young in the pouch,
she rocks at a loping gait and drives her scuffy head
through the grass like a rugby player pushing into the scrum.

The mammoth and the dodo never saw it coming—
in the end, there is only the idea of species, like a chair
left swinging when the kids go in for lunch. Sleep,

and I’ll tell you stories of wallaby and wombat carrion.
Unwind the yearn in your stocky frames, tomorrow
I’ll pluck linseeds from the grass and flick them

into my purse of children. Now, in the lavish feign of dreams,
we’ll gorge on injured roos, or consume an entire horse carcass;
eating skin, bones and flesh, and leaving behind
only the metal U of shoes.

Andrew Slattery’s awards include the Harri Jones Memorial Prize for Poetry, the Roland Robinson Award, the Henry Kendall Poetry Award, the Byron Bay Poetry Prize, the Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize, and twice-winner of the Val Vallis Award for Poetry. Slattery’s debut collection, Canyon, was launched at the Sydney Writers’ Festival in 2009. His next collection The Severant is forthcoming from Giramondo Publishing.

Homepage photo via “Flickr”:

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