Functional Existence, Vicki Iorio

Dale Champlin, Chaste, Collage, 2021

Functional Existence*  


There are only two                           Sisters living out their old age together in
northern                                           Florida
white rhinos                                     see leather, distressed when they look at each other’s skin
left on earth                                     widowed and divorced they are old maids
they live out their days                    on a beige velour couch
in a strange existential twilight—  pinked by the tropical glare
a state of limbo                                 the light fades along with their ancient mother
that scientists call                            choking in her easy chair
with heartbreaking dryness             one sister recognizes the death rattle,
“functional extinction”                   the mother goes before the ambulance arrives
as two females                                  two orphans still life in the living room
cannot save their subspecies.           waiting for their light to be extinguished.

Vicki Iorio

*Note: Italicized text excerpted from a New York Times Magazine article: “The Last Two Northern White Rhinos on Earth” by Sam Anderson, Jan. 14, 2021

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