In honor of National Poetry Month, here is "Surus."
What is this cold and what is this white
that numbs my feet, he thinks.
He doesn’t belong here, far from grass, leaves, trees.
He watches his friends stumble on boulders and
fall to their knees while snarling humans
poke them with spears, furious humans
shriek into their earflaps to make them get up, move.
Our hide is thick, he thinks, but not enough to resist
these blades, as the blood of his kin stains
the white ground. Why are they doing this to us, he wonders.
Forced toward other human tribes who rush
to hack off the trunks of his mother, father,
he is pierced with a spear: he must leave them behind.
His family watch him driven on, fade away white.
I am the only one of my kind left in the world,
he thinks, and this tiny fool drapes me in red,
stands on a platform on my back,
his manic shouts ricocheting off sharp peaks of ice.
*Surus was the last surviving elephant, out of the 37 elephants Hannibal took with him when he crossed the Alps in 218 B.C.E.