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    A Poem – The Marginalian


    I turned the corner one afternoon to find my neighborhood grocer gone. No warning, just gone — padlocked and boarded off, closed for good, a long chain of habit suddenly severed.

    We know that entropy drags everything toward dissolution, that life is a vector pointed at loss, but how rarely we realize that the lasts are last, how staggering the turning of those corners. The friend you embrace in a casual parting not knowing it is the final farewell. The lover you kiss not knowing you will never touch again. Your mother answering the phone in a voice you’ve known forever, a voice you don’t know you will never again hear.

    Even science has tenderness for these unbidden finalities in its term for the last known survivor of a species: endling — an end abrupt yet somehow endearing in its smallness, its particularity, in the way a tragedy so vast and collective can culminate on the minute scale of the individual, the scale on which our lives ultimately unfold.

    And so, a poem:

    ENDLING
    by Maria Popova

    Unspooling from a reel
    in the sound archive
    of the British Library
    is the syncopating chirp of
    the last Moho braccatus
    a small Hawaiian bird
         now extinct.

    After centuries of humans
    silenced the species
         with civilization,
    after a hurricane
    killed the last female
         in 1982,
    he alone was left
    to sing the final song
         of his kind —
    a mating call for
    a world void of mate.

    In ten billion years,
    the Sun will burn out.
    In a hundred billion,
    the galaxies will drift apart
    and take away the light,
    leaving the night sky
    black as the inside
         of a skull.
    In time,
    all the energy
    of the cosmos
    will dissipate
    until none is left
         to succor life
    as the universe goes on expanding
         into eternity.

    Somewhere along the way,
    there will have been a creature
    to think the last thought
    and feel the last feeling
    and sing the last song
         of life.

    And it will have been beautiful,
    this brief movement of being
    in the silent symphony
         of forever,
    and it will have been merciful
    that only hindsight
    ever knows
         each last.



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