The Elephant Graveyard

elephant skeleton

Image: Elephant Skeleton ~ Mike Richardson

When I close my eyes
I dream of deepest Africa
The Motherland
Our ancestral home
Where the orange sun rises
Over the plantation lands
And the hot winds blow
Across the Serengeti plains

Deep in the wilderness
Vultures hover over an elephant graveyard
Swooping to pick at the flesh
Of all that remains
Their bones lie everywhere
Scattered and broken
Discarded by thieves in their search
For precious ivory

What happened to them I do not know
Perhaps it was starvation
Or disease
Or the lust and greed of man
But if you look closely
Sometimes you can still see them
And hear their mighty trumpets
Echoing through the night

Away in the city
Amongst the towers and smog
An elephant calf sits
In a concrete cage
The last of its kind
It sits and stares at the world
And remembers a time
When it was free

Licenced under a Creative Commons Licence

You can also listen to the poem below or at AudioBoo


Originally I started writing this poem for Blog Action Day but due to my health, I wasn’t able to finish it in time. So I’m posting it now instead.

It was inspired by a dream I had where I was standing in a pit, surrounded by the bones of hundreds of animals. It was extremely vivid; I kept thinking about the dream for days afterwards and thought about using it in a short story before deciding on a poem instead.

Over the last decade the threat of extinction has increased dramatically for many species, particularly for elephants in Africa. It’s largely due to poaching but also partially due to climate change; as droughts have worsened and their habitats have continued to be lost due to conditions and human encroachment, more elephants have had to search for food and water in new areas, where they often starve to death or are more easily targeted by poachers.

Some elephant populations have decreased by as much as two thirds in recent years and it’s thought that African elephants could be extinct by 2020. Whether people believe in the science of climate change or not, it’s clear that many species are becoming increasingly threatened on multiple fronts and if we do nothing, we could lose them forever.

That was what I wanted to represent in my poem. I wanted to leave the reader to decide what caused the extinction itself; I was more interested in showing what we have to lose. I hope you liked the poem. – CJ.

11 thoughts on “The Elephant Graveyard

  1. Thanks, Patricia. I appreciate your kind words. It was actually quite hard to write; I wanted it to have a simple flow, so the emotion would have more of an impact. I’m glad you liked it.

  2. Thanks, Dianne! I’m glad you liked it. It was interesting to write as like my dream, it’s really just a glimpse into that scene and I knew it would leave a lot of questions unanswered. I wasn’t sure if it would work but I think it helps the poem. In real life no one knows the right answer to these questions, or if there even is one; that’s the problem.

  3. Hi River – thank you! I’m glad you liked the poem. I wanted it to feel very vivid, almost like a series of paintings. It was difficult to write but I think it turned out well in the end. Thank you for the compliment, and for stopping by. 😉

  4. Wonderful and powerful poem – to something so near and dear to me. And I can feel your pain as well.

    With your permission, I would like to recite this in our Toastmasters gathering including your notes – with all credits to you.

    Please keep writing more.

    1. Thank you, I’m glad you liked the poem. It resonates with me very deeply and sometimes I still have that dream or ones like it. I hope it never becomes true, although sadly we seem to be moving that way. And people still don’t understand what we will lose. Perhaps they never will.

      In any case I’m glad it moved you so much and I’d be honoured if you used it. Please feel free to and let me know how it goes!

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

      1. Thank you so much. It went very well – and I think I used the occasion to let people be aware of the dark future these beautiful animals are facing, thanks to us essentially. Many are not in touch with the reality over there as much as they should – as they have other existential worries here. But – overall, your poem is very gripping and it opens up this wound. I will be following this up later with a speech about Elephants in captivity and why we should care.

    1. Thank you for the kind words! I feel like that too… I don’t like to lecture people but I think sometimes we do need art to help us see the reality of what’s really going on in the world and I tried to do that a little with this poem. Hopefully in time things will change… they are such beautiful creatures, it would be beyond awful to lose them forever. Thanks again for the kind words and for stopping by. 🙂

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