Long long ago when the world was a wild place
Planted with bushes and people by apes, our
Mission Brigade was at work in the jungle.
Hard by the Congo
Once, when a foraging detail was active
Scouting for green-fly, it came on a grey man, the
Last living man, in the branch of a baobab
Stalking a monkey.
Earlier men had disposed of, for pleasure,
Creatures whose names we scarcely remember—
Zebra, rhinoceros, elephants, wart-hog,
Lion, rats, deer. But
After the wars had extinguished the cities
Only the wild ones were left, half-naked
Near the Equator: and here was the last one,
Starved for a monkey.
By then the Mission Brigade had encountered
Hundreds of such men: and their procedure,
History tells us, was only to feed them:
Find them and feed them;
Those were the orders. And this was the last one.
Nobody knew that he was, but he was. Mud
Caked on his flat grey flanks. He was crouched,
armed with a shaved spear
Glinting beneath broad leaves. When their jaws cut
Swathes through the bark and he saw fine teeth
Round eyes roll round and forked arms waver
Huge as the rough trunks.
Over his head, he was frightened. Our workers
Marched through the Congo before he was born,
This was the first time perhaps that he'd seen one.
Staring in hot still
Silence, he crouched there: then jumped. With a
Down from his branch, he had angled his spear too
Quickly, before they could hold him, and hurled it
Hard at the soldier
Leading the detail. How could he know Queen's
Orders were only to help him? The soldier
Winced when the tipped spear pricked him.
Sting was a reflex.
Later the Queen was informed. There were no
Men. An impetuous soldier had killed off,
Purely by chance, the penultimate primate.
When she was certain.
Squadrons of workers were fanned through the
Detailed to bring back the man's picked bones
Sealed in the archives in amber. I'm quite sure
Nobody found them
After the most industrious search, though.
Where had the bones gone? Over the earth, dear,
Ground by the teeth of the termites, blown by the
Wind, like the dodo's.