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Accidental Poetry of Extinction: Straight-Tusked Elephant

Straight-Tusked Elephant

Straight-tusked elephant, tall as three men,
Grey bulk hidden in the thick hawthorn wall, 
Pushes white tusks like huge ivory
Needles through the branching boughs, smooth tusks,
Long and straight to the quick curve of their ends, 
Where the tips reach almost to the ground, 
To the hawthorns’ roots, but straight as poles till then.

Its great trunk snakes up, grasps the spiny stems, 
Tosses its massive head; cracking wood
Snaps and flings sap upwards in a stream;
The falling stand of thorn reveals the cow, 
Magnificent in her hugeness, her
Great humped dome dappled by the oaks
That shade the thorn, her sagging, weighted skin
Doubly mapped, lines riven like runnels
In the rock of a broken riverbed. 

Next to her is a calf, bull-calf with ears
Too big for the head that he swivels
To mimic his mother’s crushing blows.

All this I see, my spear with its flint head
Motionless, haft smooth in my dry hand,
My held breath as still as certain death
Should I be sensed, and crushed and speared.
I have heard tales of these domed elephants,
With their strange straight tusks too long, unbent; 
I have never felt, before, so close
To such an immensity of power.
I know the cow will be dangerous
With her calf so near, and I fear, then,
For my son, still so young, and for the
Bump in my woman’s belly, new child.

For a moment, inevitable,
Light from my eye locks with the light
Pulsing from that of the straight-tusked cow, 
And my body loses substance, form;
She holds my gaze and seems to feel my fear,
Weighs my intent, weightless as I am, 
And I sense she knows me, or knew me once.

I feel, absurdly, that she foretells
What my human presence portends, end-song –
Then her trunk flicks down to nudge her calf
Closer, and she releases her grip
On my gaze, gently draws her calf’s trunk
To the tender new leaves at his feet, 
Shredded and stripped from the arching thorns.

Beyond the hawthorn ruins and oaks, massed pines
Stretch endless to the sea; below, what  
Will be called Loch Ness sparkles in its glen.  
The matriarch with the long straight tines
Moves on into deeper, darker wood; 
My insubstantial body drops down,
And I wait a long while in silence,
Before I move too, back into the
Coming world, the whittling world of men.



Death of a Jack-Rabbit

Death of a Jack-Rabbit

Driving late night, or early morning, the long-distance thrum of
Soporific rhythm, high speed with heavy metal reassurance, 
And warm in the comfort of the coming day, gently I
Rounded a rise, when suddenly in front of me weaving,
Crazy hip-hop drunken Jack Rabbit heaving,
A macabre flip-flop breakdance in the middle of my road.

Split-second that I saw him so, long, fatal ears
Flattened in a dervish-like, death-accepting run, 
And yet: 
Time stretched, pulsated, to teach me of the killer and the killed;
In those long and anguished, torturous moments, I was the hare; the hare was me. 
I knew the horror and the pity of the death to come, and felt
A cord of will tying me to him, and I being him – futile in that fumbling, stumbling run.

There seemed ample time to think – back in my own mind now – and I willed him to lie still; 
Lie still, lie flat: don’t jump, to jump is certain death – 
O let the body of the car hurtle bloodless over;
But yet I knew the hare would jump, would spring, and that death would come.

I could not swerve; I had been taught.

Time snapped elastic back with a muffled, heavy clunk – an unreasonable solidity
For a hare, too heavy, much too heavy, the weight, perhaps, of inevitability. 

Was its an instant death? I think it was, all vital force crushed,
A bone-mashing instant extinguishing
Of everything that had been, once, sprung and coiled hare. 

There is no comfort in trying to rationalise its death, and I will not say:
I killed a jack-rabbit on the road. 

What I killed was greater, deeper, and when I ripped the body of the hare,
And unnerved my own mind, somehow the fabric of the world lay bare, exposed,
And I caught the merest glimpse of some connected soul.