If you could see them in the thousands,
doll-eyed, dressed in body-fitting uniforms—
are they even birds?
They love the zero degree, the chase of squid and krill.
Springing onto the beach, they flap, preen,
gossip in groups, then begin the trek to stony outcrops.
(Yes, they waddle. Yes, they sway like a bowling pin,
falling. They could out race you up that hill,
gloved feet built for snowy ascent.)
Glaciers and leopard seals watch their march
as the colony blares its complaint; eggs,
chicks, regurgitated fish, ammonia-
reeking shit, binding pebbles and down
as the adults sing HATCH HATCH HATCH
loud as a great refinery,
bold experiment in penguin replication.
We have not replicated. We are the comet,
the alien invasion, the avant-garde
of billions who do not love basalt,
thousand-foot ice sheets; have no blubber
against impossible cold, fear sky-veined bergs,
blue foggy light, the season of night,
leviathans wagging a monstrous tail.
If you were here, holding my hand
like those crossed wings, listening to love calls,
we would pray to Darwin, whisper to our DNA,
implore our worse, our better instincts—
let them live!
Mark McKain has had work appear in The New Republic, Agni, Subtropics, Cimarron Review, The Journal, American Letters & Commentary, Cortland Review and elsewhere. He was recently awarded a Writing Fellowships at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. The Center for Book Arts published a limited edition Broadside of his poem “Wild Coffee,” and he is also the author of the chapbook “Ranging the Moon.” He teaches screenwriting at Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida.
Read an interview with Mark here.