The Ofi Press Magazine

International Poetry and Literature from Mexico City

Harry Owen: 2 Poems Published

Poems by Harry Owen (South Africa)

Published in issue 40 of The Ofi Press



The Cull


“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.


Moon! Moon!

Moon! Moon!

(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

into darkness.


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?


Step back.


Of what?

About the Poet

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  

Images:  "The Badger and The White Elephant" by Incredible How and "Autumn Moon" by Duncan.

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