Poems by Harry Owen (South Africa)
Published in issue 40 of The Ofi Press
“Too hungry, too destructive, too many: South Africa to begin elephant cull”
(The Guardian, February 26, 2008)
Let’s be clear about this: we don’t like it
any more than you do but have little
choice in it now. Our absolute focus
is disease control. You will, I feel sure,
be grateful that we’re taking this very
important step towards eradicating
sickness and disease from our countryside.
The commercial quota is just under
four million, a pity because
the sheer terror of the slaughter
can cause infants to vomit their mother’s
milk in fear. Regrettable, of course. Sad
for those of a nervous disposition.
But it’s a long way from here, isn’t it?
Further, it’s reported that
the risk of being bitten
while swimming off Perth in summer
is about one in 30 million, with
only one recorded in forty years.
But yes, we’re afraid; we demand security,
so population management is our aim.
And news just in: The effect of growing
numbers on the west coast of Ireland
has reached the stage where a cull
is needed, a TD has said. Nothing
will go to waste. The minister announced
a ‘total allowable catch’ of just
39,000, but plans to visit
China to promote the sale of
meat, pelts and penises. No doubt stocks
of ivory and rhino horn are well supplied.
Clearly, the whole intention is to preserve
and protect the species by focusing
on the killing of specific older
and more aggressive individuals,
especially those who can no longer
breed, who are likely becoming a threat
as they get more aggressive in old age.
But if one in your herd can’t gain
weight after calving while nursing,
please do not hesitate: she should be shipped.
Sound females must have good feet and udders,
maintaining the depth in their ribs and rumps,
as feminine as their breeding allows.
Males, too, need good scrotal confirmation,
rich in masculinity and muscling.
Any individual in your home that does not
meet the criteria mentioned here must be culled.
Who can argue with the facts?
Some you’ll find may be carriers
for a genetic defect affecting your child-crop,
so you’ll have to cull these too.
We need to think of the future, preserve
our natural environment.
Humane management frequently
requires large numbers be liquidated in one
massive campaign, culling entire families
to preclude orphaned juveniles, grieving parents.
You understand the need for this, don’t you?
Elephants, sharks, badgers, kangaroos: why
should we be any different? Eleven
jackals and a caracal in one night!
Varmint hunting is what we’re all about.
Unfortunate. But that’s conservation.
Too hungry, too destructive, too many,
and as the minister said – we use science.
(after Ted Hughes)
Frenzied one skulking, crazed
behind the coral tree –
disguise your lunatic skin
with cloud tonight, can’t you,
swab those dribbling tears away
Honour the ancients, moon,
not these living corpses –
spare our earth your witless droop,
the spermy silvered jealousies,
that wintry unspilled milk
embezzled from another’s fame.
Full, you say? Oh yes, moon, yes,
we really can’t argue with that.
But of what, may I ask?
Originally from Liverpool, Harry Owen emigrated to South Africa from England in 2008. His collections are: Searching for Machynlleth; The Music of Ourselves; Five Books of Marriage; Non-Dog; Worthy; and Small Stones for Bromley.
He edited I Write Who I Am: an anthology of Upstart poetry, featuring the work of nineteen young poets from disadvantaged township schools in the Grahamstown area of the Eastern Cape, and the international anthology For Rhino in a Shrinking World, all proceeds of which go toward efforts to save this iconic animal from extinction.
Further details are at http://rhinoanthology.wordpress.com
Images: "The Badger and The White Elephant" by Incredible How and "Autumn Moon" by Duncan.