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Dirge for 75,000 Elephants

This poem was submitted by Explore.org viewer, Catherine Garland. It’s a somber look at the ivory trade threatening the lasts elephant herds on Earth.

If you missed today’s Live Expert Chat with elephant expert, Simon Hedges, keep an eye out for the forthcoming video, tune into the African Wildlife Cams and learn more about the ivory trade at World Elephant Day.

I have watched the pregnancy, the getting bigger month by month,
The matriarch of the elephant herd, looked up to for wisdom and guidance.
In this tender time of begetting, the others in the herd, sisters, aunts,
Nieces, daughters, protect her, do their best to shield her, shade her,
Deeply cherish her.

In China, a young man, Buddhist, holds out a carving, an ivory carving,
Intricately worked, exquisite craftsmanship.  I admire the beauty, then ask,
What of the elephant from whom this ivory came?  He smiles.  That elephant
Gifted me her tusks and that elephant now is blessed.  It is a good thing,
A very good thing that I have given honor to this elephant with this carving
Of much beauty.  And he smiles again.  A happy Buddhist smile.

A newspaper clipping tells of Chinese diplomats flying their private planes
Into elephant territory.  They have diplomatic immunity, and with impunity
Load large piles of elephant tusks inside.  These will be sold at great profit
To the dealers, who will sell at even greater profit to the artists, who will sell
At even greater profit to the tourists.

I drive out in my jeep to the spot where I last saw the pregnant female,
Matriarch of her tribe.  Her time is due, her time of joy, and I want to be there,
Celebrate for her.  As I draw close, I see a cloud ahead, a cloud of buzzing
Insects.  And then the stench enfolds me in the open jeep.  In the clearing
The elephant lies on her side.  Her face is eviscerated, her tusks hacked off
And gone.  A swarm of yellow maggots shrouds her, painting the huge
Hulk a dull gold in the morning light.  Her infant, aborted in the slaughter,
Lies dying in a pool of blood.

Her tusks are on their way to China now.  They will make many people rich and
Happy – the diplomats, the dealers, the artists, the tourists.  And my friend,
Matriarch of her herd, lies rotting in her stench, her long-awaited baby
At her side.