Heteralocha Acutirostris by Kimiko Hahn

Photograph by Hester Angus

This week we continue to post work by the readers at the upcoming Poems about Nothing reading at the Rubin Museum. The event will take place this coming Wednesday, January 26th–for more details, please click on the Upcoming Events tab above. Today, we are pleased to present a poem by Kimiko Hahn from her book Toxic Flora (W.W. Norton, 2010)


Heteralocha Acutirostris

When the stunning huia became scarce,
Maori priests would declare a ban
on killing these small black birds, so prized,
their tail feathers were presented as mementos
and worn in battle and funeral rites.
But the Europeans ignored the priests
and soon the Maori themselves did not listen.
So now, the males with their short sharp beaks
to drill through bark and the females
with their long bowed ones to pluck out the grubs
have perished but for museum specimens.
Is this how we admire success in pairing—
kill then stuff then display as exemplar?
Ah, my beloved, hold fast to me, in terror.


Kimiko Hahn is the author of eight books of poems, including: Earshot (awarded the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize); The Unbearable Heart (an American Book Award); The Narrow Road to the Interior, which utilizes Japanese forms; and her latest Toxic Flora, poems inspired by science. Hahn is a recipient of a number awards—the most recent area Guggenheim Fellowship, PEN/Voelcker Award and The Shelley Memorial Prize—and she is a distinguished professor in the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation at Queens College, The City University of New York.