they don’t grieve for their dead, she murmured.
i shifted in my seat. felt something hard pressing on the side of my tailbone. pulled a thin slice of obsidian out of my back pocket.
what did you say?
they don’t grieve for their dead. they just bury them like tulip bulbs and walk away.
i thought about what she was saying. what does it mean to grieve? i wondered. what does it look like? streaked faces and puffy eyes? lips lined with broken capillaries, chapped and cracking like a dry pond? do we turn muddy with our grief? skin crawling with primeval creatures as we sink into the silt of our sadness? do mourners dissolve into the soils of burial grounds, lining the edges of the ditches with the fecundity of heartbreak?
elephants grieve for their dead, you know. but we’re killing all the elephants. poaching them for ivory to sell on the side of the street. who’s going to grieve once all of the elephants are dead, huh?
i imagined some old woman somewhere clutching an ivory totem, sitting in front of the TV. the headline: last elephant dies.
her heart clenches. her palm sweats into the hard furrows of her trinket.
It has long been said that elephants are some of the only creatures besides humans who experience grief. Perhaps their capacity for grief is directly linked to their ability to remember so far into the past. In this poem, the elephant is meant to remind us humans (particularly those living in denatured, consumerist, fast-paced cultures) to relearn and remember how to mourn the ecological diversity we are so rapidly losing. If we don’t, who will? If not now, when?
Inevitably, confronting the reality of species loss and environmental destruction requires that we confront our own complicity. Like the woman in the poem, we find ourselves clinging to little things, small comforts that seem impossible for us to give up.
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About the Author
Dana Anastasia is a writer, musician, photographer, and herbalist from the Cascade foothills of Washington State. Her poetry has been featured or is forthcoming in Enigma Rag, InkSpeak, Extract(s), and the Lucid Moose Lit anthology, Like a Girl: Perspectives on Feminine Identity. In 2013, her first chapbook, Songs from the Hollow Alder, was published by the Black Dog Arts Coalition. Through her work, Dana aspires to help bridge the gap between the tangible world of “objective reality” and the ephemeral world of mystery and myth.