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A Passenger Pigeon Egg In Texas

By John I. Blair

This morning on Public Radio
I heard that a small museum in Texas
Had just acquired some boxes of eggs
And one egg was labeled
"Passenger pigeon."

Oologists from California
Zoologists from New York City,
Came to examine the precious find.
They prized up the fragile cardboard lid
And peered within. There lay the egg,
Nested a century in its dusty coffin,
Away from any light or air.

Some frowned, saying "it's too brown."
Turning it over others checked again
And announced, no, it looked
Like the real thing after all.
So now in the entire world remained
One hundred and thirty empty eggs
Plus some stuffed and mounted skins.

Once three billion blackened the skies
With their beating wings, shaking the ground
With the sound of their passing
As they surged from grove to grove,
Nature's bounty made manifest,
An inexhaustible resource.

In 1914 the last one, Martha,
Old in years, irreplaceable, mateless,
Died at the Cincinnati Zoo.
Now these men, who will never see
The mighty swells of migrating birds
Or feel their tremor and majesty,
Debated a bit of moldy shell.

2003 John I. Blair  

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