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Wednesday, June 05, 2024


by Pepper Trail

Their howls were pure vowel, shapes
in the mouth of existence: Here, here, we are here,
bringing the forest to monkey-life,
vibrating the leaves of caoba and pochote,
the fruits of zapote, guarumo and nanche,
howls that named the family, organized the world.
Yes, there was always heat—but now
different, a heat that makes silence 
through the night, through the day,
loosens the baby’s grip, then the mother’s.
They fall from the trees like rotten fruit,
their open hands holding nothing but questions.

Author's note:  As a field biologist, I have shared tropical forests with these monkeys, have been awakened in the night by their prodigious howls, have marveled as they leap from tree to tree with their infants on their backs. The news that we have made the planet too hot for these fellow primates, superbly adapted to the heat and humidity of the tropics, is tragic and terrifying. How can we not understand that we are next?

Pepper Trail is a poet and naturalist based in Ashland, Oregon. His poetry has appeared in Rattle, Atlanta Review, Spillway, Kyoto Journal, Cascadia Review, and other publications, and has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net awards. His collection Cascade-Siskiyou was a finalist for the 2016 Oregon Book Award in Poetry.