by James C. Henderson

The more successful we are
the more we achieve in our families and in society
the more we, in our glory, spread out to every inch of the planet
in our need for growth
in our need for progress as the human race
the more other species go extinct:
200 species a day, at last count.

But maybe they were insignificant species
those ten score lights that went out in the firmament last night—
a shy hummingbird, an elusive butterfly
or a band of lavender and black frogs
that lived only in a pool at the base of a tree
on one tiny island in Micronesia—
a dime a dozen, bit players, extras in the epic story of us.

Why, until 1997, we didn’t even know the leggy amphibians existed.
Besides, there are plenty of frogs to go around.
Maybe some bewildered biologist, turned around in the jungle
will stumble backwards over a new species tomorrow
one yellow and green with red eyes, blue legs
and orange feet this time
something a child could easily put together in a mix-‘n’-match book
or central casting could call up
to take its place.

Once I remarked to a co-worker
that I hadn’t seen a rose-breasted grosbeak in years
but that I’d begun to see rare pileated woodpeckers in my front yard.
“That’s the way it goes,” he said, “one species in, another out”
compressing millennia of evolution into a sound bite.

Some say reality is but our impression of it.
Stars are born and stars die.
In with the new and out with the old
or so our ancestors told the dinosaurs
who exited the scene despite having great management.
Like actors on a stage, we rotate the scenery
to fit our environmental needs.
Even as the set becomes sparser and sparser
to accentuate our singular presence
we lift our faces to the silvery glow of the spotlight.
And why not? We’ve earned top billing.
So, let’s take our bows
luxuriate in the warmth of global adoration
and believe in the promise of “encore, encore”
because even as we gather our rose bouquets while we may
a cockroach with moxie
waits in the wings
for our curtain to fall.