NYU Black Renaissance Noire Fall 2013 - Page 54

By JENNIFER FOERSTER Atlas History I have tried to erase you but you are already blank. For Darwin, collecting was only a hobby. For a damp heel of bread he sailed Icelandic from Europe to the Amazons. Spectacular arthropods mounted on silver he would ship in pastry boxes to collectors of Pre-Raphaelite art. It was worth it—the vomiting, fevers and fatigue to find the claw of the long-extinct Balinese Tiger floating in a sandy inlet, boring into his canoe. He slept in a hammock of coarse hair, bent-limbed, puckered, drooped with hard fruit, and didn’t mind it—the vampire bats nibbling at his toes (he feasted on turtles, manioc brew)—so long as he could return home with a trove of specimens— bird skins, pickled reptiles, marvelous molars of beasts dug up from village graves. All this before his menagerie, crates taken up in flames— screech monkeys, parrots flailing from the burning masts. I hang your dress in the hot south wind. Only a rustle of crows in the trees as far off, our atlas curls over the ledge 52 like a little blue wave. BRN-FALL-2013.indb 52 9/13/13 12:48 AM