Scala Naturae

Maya Catherine Popa

Aristotle organized the living world into animals and plants. That      was the easy part.What separates us from animals is that we think about thinking,      I tell my students as we read the dystopias of their fathers’ fathers,
though they are mostly unimpressed with unattractive people      killing one another for the state.                   Something delicate has been lifted from them,                   a fear we could slip from our own grasp.Always a girl raises her hand to amend: as far as we know,      we are the only,extending the privilege, though it serves so little if the conclusion      arrived at, the thought thought through, lets the driver plough
the sidewalk in an SUV,      bans the hungry crossing borders.                   Something like a sickness of the unfamiliar,                   the way we shiver at each other’s names.Occasionally, a predator spares the weaker species      out of something presumably,
not thinking about thinking. And I protect these exceptions      with amateur devotion, courage for an order
that concedes to the weak,                                      that looks and really sees, and pities.

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Maya Catherine Popa is a writer and teacher in New York City. She is the recipient of the Editor’s Prize from the Poetry Foundation. Her chapbook The Bees Have Been Canceled (2017) was named a Poetry Book Society Summer Choice. Popa holds degrees from NYU, Oxford University, and Barnard College. She is a member of the English Faculty and oversees the Christine Schutt Visiting Writers program at the Nightingale-Bamford school in New York City.

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“In these poems, hope is a meticulous, meditative state—a method of forensic searching and study that is carried with great care across generations. By stitching her raging images together with stillness and poise, Popa asks us to step back from our panic and look…”
—Caroline Bird

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