‘For a Coming Extinction’: a poem by Pascale Petit

Image credit: © Brian Fraser


King’s College London’s popular ‘Poetry And..’ series, chaired by Professor of Poetry Ruth Padel, returns on 30th November at 5pm with ‘Poetry And… The Wild in a Time of Coronavirus’, an online event with prize-winning poet Pascale Petit and award-winning wildlife film-maker Shekar Dattatri. More details, including how to book your free ticket, can be found here.


Ahead of the event, below is a poem by Pascale from her recent new collection Tiger Girl



    For a Coming Extinction


(after W. S. Merwin)


You whom we have named Charger, Challenger,
Great King, and Noor the shining one,

now that you are at the brink of extinction,
I am writing to those of you

who have reached the black groves of the sky,
where you glide beneath branches of galaxies,

your fur damasked with constellations,
tell him who sits at the centre of the mystery,

that we did all we could.
That we kept some of you alive

in the prisons we built for you.
You tigers of Amur and Sumatra,

of Turkey and Iran, Java and Borneo,
and you – Royal Bengals, who lingered last.

Tell the one who would judge
that we are innocent of your slaughter.

That we kiss each pugmark,
the water trembling inside

as if you had just passed.
Masters of ambush and camouflage,

hiding behind astral trees,
invisible as always,

when we gaze up at the night,
when we look lightyears into the past –

we see your eyes staring down at us.


Pascale Petit

About Pascale Petit

Pascale Petit’s seventh collection, 'Mama Amazonica' (Bloodaxe, 2017), won the inaugural Laurel Prize 2020, and the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize 2018 – the first time a poetry book won this prize for a work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry best evoking the spirit of a place. It was also shortlisted for the Roehampton Prize and was a Poetry Book Society Choice. Her eighth collection, 'Tiger Girl', published in September 2020, won a Royal Society of Literature ‘Literature Matters’ Award while in progress and was shortlisted for the 2020 Forward Prize for Best Collection. Four of her earlier collections were shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize.