Song for the Woolly Mammoth

Lauren Moseley
When glaciers trapped a third of Earth’s water and drained the Bering Strait, humans
journeyed to this land where wind swept the steppes of snow, exposing grass


that would be plucked by mammoth trunks and ground by washboard teeth.
Up to thirteen feet, their tusks curved helically and would intertwine if they went on


a little longer. The beasts’ dense hair—brown, blonde, or ginger—swung like a skirt
about their flanks. I want to rest my head against that shaggy coat, to crane


my ears, to be protected from the giant short-faced bear. I want to be
their baby, wrap my trunk around my mother’s, watch the wild horses of Beringia


canter across the steppes in tawny, fine-boned movements. The thick fat
under my hair keeps me warm when the sun goes low, and I grow into


an eight-ton bull, pierce the ice with my tusks and drink from glacial pools.
The wind is bitter, but my strongest features have grown bigger than my father’s.


When summer comes I must find a mate, and it only takes a few tusk locks to show
my strength. After our calf is born, I see upright creatures eyeing him from the mesa.


I will fling them against the icy mountains. They wear our hair as if it were
their skin. Still, I will live through many winters, through each warm season’s


hardheaded matches. I know the range that slopes like the hump on my back, sunsets
redder than the long-toothed cat’s gorging mouth, how musk oxen form a wall of horns


and still fall prey to the blade thrown. I know how many herds have fled, and the curves
of carcasses stripped to bone by men, wind, and time. I do not know that I am gone.

Related Poems

Goat on a Pile of Scrap Lumber

He lowers his head like a fur-covered anvil
as if he knows all things in the world change.
His eyes are bisected by a horizon line of yellow light.
You’re wondering what might happen if you move closer.
There’s a language we speak to ourselves and one we use for others.
I told you, he’s lowered his head.
Nevertheless, you can see for yourself he’s chewing.
What he swallows becomes his rumination.
I too was attracted to someone I did not understand.
With each other we were bestial, that’s not too strong a word.
Although at first, at first, when our foreheads touched, we were curious.

 

For Judy and Joe Powell