For John F B Tucker
I would kill to have you back, now that I’ve known you
for 3:25 minutes in black and white,
the sound turned down while you prowl
a dusty enclosure in Beaumaris Zoo
in ’36. I can almost feel the heat
of neglect, hear the two million year howl
against extinction. Tail like a kangaroo’s,
striped lower back, marsupial not canid,
you pace the boundaries of your cage,
enduring the rage of Tasmanian sun,
hoping the shadows will camouflage
you from its blank gaze. Last of your kind,
discounting ghost prints and shaky footage,
how could you know the race was already run.
Those jaws look made for close-up work,
and the neck, a hyena’s low slung
gantry. I see you at night, dog-snout among
the viscera, tarred and feathered up to the neck,
not beaten down by unrelenting noon,
no neon flies feasting on what’s thrown
to you, your coat a scuffed yellow-brown,
the colour of where you slept and got up from.
You yawn, bored by the glare, or lie down,
or pace the extent of what you’ve become,
or flare briefly, taunted beyond the chicken wire,
No ark of words will do, this is what remains
of you forever once you disappear,
trapped for all time by Fleay’s camera.
I watch in silence and would bring you back,
if only to hunt you down again to where
you’ve lain for hours after sunup, to hear
you piss, a spritz that marks our boundaries -
£1 for every adult shot, 10s for every
pup – to sniff your scats and claim my bounty,
not the silence of extinction but your bark.
*Footage of the last thylacine can be viewed on YouTube.