Harry Humes

A World Without Elephants

This is where they used to stand
in the shadow of pigeon coop and maple,
their wrinkled skins and small sad eyes.
Sometimes they bugled, sometimes
let out bird whistles, or wept
when they heard the Methodist bells.
They walked up the alley to the dump
with its rotten tomatoes, apples and pears,
careful not to step on the rats,
drinking black mine water at evening,
and staring for hours at the mountain
and the valley on the other side,
their ancient trails bulldozed,
their stomachs no longer rumbling,
not even caring about the pigeons
landing on their backs,
every day a little more of them missing,
half a tusk, part of a trunk,
gone the graceful ridges of backs,
and then only that warm place in air
where they used to live, and then
only the graveyard we never found.

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