Whose Extinctions?

notes on the condition of cognition

The elephant finds itself
on what it doesn’t know is a railroad track.

Hearing the sudden noise
and feeling the vibration in its feet,
intelligent in its ignorance,
the elephant moves toward safety.
The human finds itself
on what it knows to be a railroad track.

Because of its intelligence,
and knowing that this is a dangerous
place to be, the human thinks, not
“I think I’ll step over where it’s safe,”

but of the possibilities
of engaging in anthro-cleverness,
the danger!—Thunder Road:
“I wonder how far I can walk backward on this rail?

Facing away from the train?

[two witnesses opine]

1. “Here’s an idea!

If we can’t get lithium from Earth,
how about the moon?
I mean, you could build, like,
a sky train with bendy tracks, and …
uh … what’s lithium?”
2. “Hey! Anybody here see Interstellar?
It’s got these wormholes.
Couldn’t we get water from that planet
with the big waves?

And use a wormhole and build maybe
a real big like sewer-pipe thing?—

and … uh … like … you know, that … ”

Intelligence is useful
for teaching the elephant
the foresight to survive.

Cognition is useful
for teaching the human
the negation of intelligence,

self-delusion being the best way
out of a situation rendered,
like black ice greased, impossible

because of the delusionary
inventiveness that gleams,
dazzling the human mind.

Richard Fenton Sederstrom was raised and lives in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and the North Woods of Minnesota. Sederstrom is the author of seven books of poetry, his newest book, Icarus Rising, Misadventures in Ascension, published by Jackpine Writers' Bloc, was released last winter. Read other articles by Richard Fenton.