The Tusks Are Not Dead

a crowd of Tanzanian poachers,
their smiles like fields of crooked
crescent moons, embrace a whole
bundle of dead 
with entirely wet
breathing deeply throughout.

Some of them
I (like to) think, feel 
tired from (of?) the killing
of elephant families, 
lamenting everything
it took to take
the dignity of a beast.
Some look right at me
in warning, and
others look beyond the camera
to the next family of 
elephants remembering
to keep a distance.
The men look like babies
wrapping both hands around
mammoth tusks,
unable to raise them 
like the scepters they wanted.

They help each other haul
bundles of dignity 
to lay on a truck bed bound
for the ivory colony.
Over there, dignity is 
the wages of life,
the food needed
to make a more perfect piano,
a better billiard ball,
a vase for the dead
flowers, for a second date.

This picture is forever: 
champions raising our heavy 
scepters like flowers for sky,
smiling unaware 
the mighty arcs of the universe,
the trumpets of Jericho
in our very hands,
big thumbs of the dead
bowing the direction of the plain,
really are guides for the living 
away from the killing 
toward freedom.