A bubal hartebeest drawn by Philip Sclater, from the The Book of Antelopes, 1894.
Joanna Lilley writes: This poem, ‘I Hold Up My Hands,’ is from my new poetry collection, Endlings, which is all about extinction. This particular poem is about the bubal hartebeest which used to exist in large herds north and south of the Sahara Desert but became extinct in the 1920s. It steadily declined in the nineteenth century, not least because entire herds were massacred by the French military after their conquest of Algeria. 

Joanna Lilley

wrists together, palms open,
angled, fingers lifted
to make the shape
of horns. A flower, 
now swiftly a chalice.

You pour into the space
I hold. I carry the air
of you, the nothing 
you have become.
My fingertips tickle
with the scented recollection
of high savannah grass.
Joanna Lilley photo by Michael Edwards

Joanna Lilley was going to read this poem in a few places, including Brown and Dickson Bookstore in London, Ontario, with Tom Cull; knife fork book in Toronto with Kate Marshall Flaherty and Laura K. McRae; and at the Animals Across Discipline, Time and Space conference in Hamilton with John Hill, Madeleine Lavin, Mandy-Suzanne Wong. She was also going to be reading at the Vertigo Series in Regina with Saskatchewan Book Award nominees; at McNally Robinson in Winnipeg in a panel discussion with Victoria Markstrom, curator at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre, and Cary Hamel, director of conservation for Nature Conservancy of Canada's Manitoba region; and at the North American Association of Critical Animal Studies conference in Kelowna, BC.

Endlings was published in March 2020 and is available from Turnstone Press