Odyssey from Africa 14f

Odyssey from Africa 14f

This colossal ratite was the
Largest bird on all the planet
It would live on Madagascar 
Till the time of William Shakespeare

“Let me tell you” said the monarch 
Quietly pleased at Han’s reaction 
“What I find to be most curious,
Something hinting at a mystery
 
“Of the many birds and creatures  
Which inhabit our great island 
Very few can be encountered 
Living on the westward mainland
 
“All the lemurs of the forest
And the savage golden fossa
Massive towering baobab trees and
Spiny forests of our dry-lands

“All appear to be exclusive 
to our lonely Island Kingdom 
Different from their mainland cousins 
Like the starry yellow orchid

“Like our purple periwinkle  
With its gentle star-like calyx
Fishes of our lakes and rivers
And a host of birds and beetles.

“Could it be that isolation 
On this ocean-circled island
Moulded life by adaptations
Suited to our island living?
 
“So that life forms are not constant
But can slowly grow divergent 
Over countless generations?
This would be a thing most wondrous!

“Furthermore, our scholars tell me
That our island’s western shoreline 
In its colours, forms and textures
Bears a very close resemblance 

“To the rocky coastal hillsides
Over on the western mainland 
Whispering to us a mystery: 
Did an ancient hand of heaven

“With a vast titanic strength once
Rend our country from the mainland?
Pull this isle across the sea 
To exile at the edge of sunrise?”
 
In the counter facing section
Of the great museum hallway
There were several rows of tables
And by some of these were seated

Scholars who examined closely 
Specimens in trays or bottles
Kept in clear preserving spirits
Alcohol from distillation 
 
At one table several scholars 
Carefully worked with tools of metal
Chipping rocks and slabs of limestone 
To uncover forms of creatures
 
Fossil prints within the rocks of 
Animals and plants so ancient 
That no human ever saw them
Windows on forgotten ages
 
But King Ptolemy now beckoned
Han toward another table
Where there sat a girl apprentice 
Her first season as a scholar 

She examined twigs and branches
That were piled up on her table 
Working to identify them
Writing symbols onto fabric 
 
Now and then she left her table
Walking over to the cabinets
To compare one of her samples 
With a reference on exhibit 
 
Then the king picked up one twiglet
That was smooth and pale in colour 
It had washed up on the shoreline 
Having long been in the ocean

Copyright © | Year Posted 2018




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