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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 
– 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. 


1963 ►


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Sun 25th Oct 2020 18:12

Thank you Tony. The first time I've ever had an animal poem dedicated to me.

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Tony Hill

Sun 25th Oct 2020 18:04

Thank you for the very kind words, John. I have one indulgence as far as poetry is concerned - I like to give my poems away. As you like this one so much it's all yours. You'll see I've added a dedication. Tony

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Sun 25th Oct 2020 17:45

If a good poem has to always remind of another as has been said... this poem strikes me as being up there with early Hawk In The Rain Ted Hughes work. Thanks Tony.

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Tony Hill

Sun 25th Oct 2020 08:30

Glad you like the poem, Rose. To rub salt into the wound, the last thylacine died only days after a preservation order was introduced. Stay safe. Tony

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Rose Casserley

Sat 24th Oct 2020 22:12

Wonderfully original, though very sad. Which species will be next to go to the wall I wonder?

Great to have you posting again Tony and I hope you keep safe.

Rose 💋

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