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Sunday, November 26, 2017


by Pepper Trail

Image source: The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Elephant, what man
Not driven by hunger
Not confronted by your bulk, your tusks
Not defending his house or farm

Knowing what we know
Of your vast and furrowed memory
Of your lines of mothers and aunts
Of the slaughter pursuing you across the continent

What man
Thinking of you, elephant
Your dignity, your utter majesty in this world
Thinks of killing

Travels thousands of miles
Spends a useless fortune
Is led to you, elephant, quiet in your life
Asks for the heavy gun, and shoots

What man
Cuts the tail from your great body
Poses for the pictures, fills out the forms
Flies satisfied away

Leaving an erasure in the map of Africa
Your circuit of waterholes, lost
The hiding-place of your family bones
The silent harmony of your song, sung through the earth

What man
Consults the record books
For spread of ego, weight of pride
Fills a trophy-room with ignorance
Elephant, what beast?

Pepper Trail is a conservation biologist, poet, and photographer living in Ashland, Oregon.  His poems have appeared in Rattle, Atlanta Review, Spillway, Kyoto Journal, Pedestal, and other publications, and have been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net Awards.  He has long been involved in efforts to protect wildlife and wild places.  His collection Cascade-Siskiyou, a cycle of poems about Oregon's Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument (currently under threat by the T***p Administration), was a finalist for the 2016 Oregon Book Award in Poetry.