The Sixth Extinction

Poetry by Amy Asmussen 


a glass eye won’t halt a tree’s death,  

a consummation of flame and flesh,  

children trade pennies for posters  

and skip school to lead  

The March to Save the Planet,

but there isn’t a light on in the house, in the  

skull of a Mouse, except for a burner 

on the stove, and the  

park she loves to sit in,  

no shoes, rooted, reptilian — 

they’re turning it into 7-Eleven. 



raindrops on the plastic slide in  

a playground of the mind.  

oranges, sliced and arranged 

in spiral patterns on the edge of a tea plate. 

Algernon’s armadillo curls up inside the alabaster  

walls of the house on Lemon Street

and waits for the wind to abate, while 

a boy paints the names and forms  

of an extinction: Thylacine and Quagga  

and California Condor, on the flank of the 7-Eleven. 

the armadillo watches from a hole in the drywall 

until the police arrive, to arrest him.  



inside, the store clerk stamps an ampersand   

across the sky and prays for rain.  

the woman on the streetcorner, the one with a tongue split 

like a snake’s, plots the end of the world on a silver spool 

addled, according to Soil Scientists, by microplastics —  

she tells stories of dead astronauts, unspooling silverthreads,  

stitching bones and sinews together  



I tossed McDonald’s wrappers and a mummified mermaid’s purse  

onto the highway, licked the asphalt  

and relished the grit on tongue and tastebud. 

I drew the sun into myself, wishing to grow like a kelp forest, 

tall and undisturbed, closer to the sun’s red mouth. 

Wildfire Season arrived in May 

this year, and soon we’ll have  

Wildfire Years. 



stand at the edge of the pier,  

look down and watch a crab scuttle up the dock posts, 

the lifelegs, covered in mollusks, 

artillery in the intertidal zone: the frontlines  

of the apocalypse.  


wish for an exoskeleton, a dark crevice,  

follow the edged backs of mutated rats 

into deadends and wish, this time, for a small  

guiltless existence (rodentia). 



touched soil and wept 

the game of trades: 

a dying desecrated good green Mother 

and the last of us: a menagerie of  

computer chips and billions of tons of plastic. 



why do I feel such dread in the morningtime?  

when everything is lilac

and everything is heavy, 

take to the sea. 


the World’s Richest Man balances his knifepoint on the anthropocene,  

alone in his shithouse on Mars.  

About the Author:

Amy Asmussen is an undergraduate creative writing student at Chapman University. Her work also appears in the Calliope Art & Literary Magazine and Planet Forward. She is particularly interested in the role of climate fiction and poetry in inspiring environmental protection and advocacy.

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