I stood in a dark room. A projector fluttered into life. Footage poured over the room's curved wall.
Crammed side by side shoulder to shoulder to wing to wing to shell to scale to fur and tooth and claw, In black and white and colour. Handfuls of frames from the evolutionary tree,
Showing branches that didn't exist anymore
The images faded, transitioned, Replaced by unknown creatures.
Yawning, sniffing, scratching, swimming,
Waddling after one another into burrows,
Glimpsed between trees or behind wire mesh fence, Basking on grass pocked savannahs.
No budget big enough for reshoots.
Children squawked, were hushed half-heartedly.
Dads held papoosed babies to their chests.
Mum's shifted weight from one hip to the other.
Some parents held hands, clipped together at the last finger joint.
Because letting go should be easy.
My shoulder shook with quiet sobs
of the person I stood with,
squashed up against the back wall. "I like how it goes so fast you can't keep up."
They choked. We mashed palms with a ferocity and cried together quietly within the flash of the zoetrope till it flickered back into blackness and was done.
In the next room, blinking at blinding white,
all I remember is a framed photograph the size of an old family portrait.
The last rhino of her kind lay quietly dying with someone crouched
resting their hand above her horn. Saying goodbye in the best way they could
A just world would have them Never having said hello.
Mirror neurons firing like artillery, I stared for a long time because I didn't believe I had a right to look away.
My partner in cry sidled up to my side.
Tenderly they pulled me and because we could, and we had to, we took stock of the future and we both walked away.