La Brea

Duncan Forbes

I am the tarred and feathered stork
Who flapped its limbs until they stuck.

I am a tapir ancestor
Who came for water, swallowed tar.

This is the asphalt killing-ground,
A lake that thirsts. Beware. Be warned.

His trunk a blowhole out of reach,
A mammoth trumpets liquid pitch.

We are a pack of dire wolves
Who scented death and mired ourselves.

I am the grief of a giant sloth
Who drank the waters of black death.

Lion and lioness salivate
At bison ready trapped to eat.

Coyote, jaguar and puma
Die for a taste of dying llama.

A squirrel bleating in distress
Allures a rattlesnake to death.

The tar immobilizes both
The short-faced bear and sabretooth.

The water winnows skeletons
Caught in a trap of sun and rain.

I am the skull of the only human,
Anonymous La Brea Woman.

The sump of ancient swamp-remains
Swallows the battles of old bones.

The eagle and the condor drown
In liquid nightfall underground.

For thousands of years, asphalt has seeped up from underground to form the famous La Brea Tar Pits. Over millennia, many animals became trapped in the tar, as did predators which came to eat them. The remains of these animals were very well preserved in the asphalt, making the Tar Pits a treasure trove for scientists.

The Tar Pits are in what is now Hancock Park in the city of Los Angeles. They are a National Natural Landmark.

This Poem is copyright the author, Duncan Forbes.

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Main Location:

La Brea Tar Pits, 5801 Wilshire Boulevard, Hancock Park, Los Angeles, California

Model of a mammoth in the La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles