ENDLING. (N). THE LAST SURVIVING INDIVIDUAL OF A SPECIES

So many firsts can also be lasts –

dance, words, breath…

But where is the tragedy in this?

Firsts in white coats, sterile in many ways 

as the maze of clones and cures 

unspools, helix by helix. Complacency spreads 

dark roots in jars of formaldehyde 

and freezers full of body parts become 

the domain of a different sort of murderer. 

The fallen lie charred in war-torn forests, wrapped 

in wire along escape routes that lead only 

to a fresher hell. Shoulders shrug 

light beneath the weight of it doesn’t matter 

and immortality is no longer 

thought the domain of gods. And all the while 

the endlings die 

from a lack of belief in their existence.

I WANT TO WRITE ABOUT CHANGE BUT THE WORDS WON’T COME

They stick in my throat like promises I know I’ll break. There is a waterfall behind the dam of my teeth and I swell to bursting with everything left unsaid. You don’t call me anymore; stilted conversation stopped being your style in the winter of ‘04, when radiator fluid peeled the layer of skin off me that held my tongue. I’ve come a long way since I stopped keeping those secrets. You still clutch them to your chest in the belief that you can will them into non-existence, consign that part of your life to the void. In the parking lot, I put the Beach Boys on high rotation and bury the last box of heartbreak underneath a dumpster lid. On the road out I watch the jagged skyline recede like worn-down teeth. That town and I have a complicated history; we’re like a plastic hula dancer on the dash of a ‘67 Chevy, both refusing to believe that the best years are behind us.

Amanda McLeod, Animal Behaviour

Amanda McLeod is a Canberra-based writer and artist. Her debut flash fiction, Animal Behaviour (Chaffinch Press, 2020), will be launched later this year, and her poetry is published widely including in Not Very Quiet, Thorn Literary Magazine and Setu Magazine. Peek into her creative mind at amandamcleodwrites.com

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