Elephant Graveyard – Poetry by Allie Rigby

When elephants die,
they are often at the river.
This is assuming
that they outlived
the slow stripping
of disease
and poaching,
and in old age,
they are now tired.
They lie in the sand.
They die.
That is all.

Time and vultures,
hyenas and black-backed jackals—
they are the artists who whittle
the decayed into the new.
They are the ones who pluck
green from grey. What I mean
to say is this:
elephants do not die by the river
on purpose. There is no such thing
as an elephant graveyard.
There is no ritual
in this death.

Grasses by the river are soft.
Reeds by the river are hydrating.
It is all an old elephant can eat.
Elephants lucky enough
to experience old age
have ground their last rotation
of molars into flat disks.
They are moving towards toothlessness.
That is what old age does to them
and so, they starve by the river.
Pass on. Die.

Who sweeps the leaves
from the tombstones?
Where will elephants
go to die when the rivers
are dust? What falls
becomes the dirt
beneath our feet.
What falls
becomes the fodder
for spring’s grass.
It emerges in spring
as cud in a deer’s stomach.
It births a fawn
who studies the hills for lionesses.

For me, this is where
the comfort lies.
For me, this is where
the ritual begins.


About the Poet

Allie Rigby is a Bay Area poet and educator with roots in the chaparral of southern California. Her poems are published in the 2019 anthology The Kerf Seeks, Manzano Mountain Review, Cholla Needles, Adelaide Literary Magazine, and Open Ceilings. You can find more of her work here.

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