Poem: Elephants Born Without Tusks

 In ALIVE, Poetry

The Washington Post says that green burials are

on the rise, as baby boomers plan for their future


their graves marked with sprouting mushrooms

little kneecaps crawling up from the dirt’s skin


like Michael Brown decomposing into the concrete

ending as natural product of the environment.


Elephants are now being born without tusks

their genetics having studied the black market


DNA a spiral ladder carefully carved

from wooden teeth of Founding Fathers.


Never let a chromosome speak for you, they will

only tell a myth—an ode to the survival of the fittest.


Peppered moths are used to teach natural selection

their changes in color an instance of evolution.


Birds unable to see dark moths on soot covered trees.

The number of blacks always rising with industry.


Life is the process of erosion, an inevitable wearing down

of the enamel.  The gums posing the threat of disease.


On most websites they suggest biodegrading

choosing a coffin made from pine or wicker.


The man in the paper said, I want to be part of a tree,

be part of a flower—go back to being part of the Earth.


I imagined my Mother then, her short-cropped hair

like freshly cut grass, immune to the pains of mowing.


The Natural Burial Guide for Turning Yourself into a

Forest sits waiting in my Amazon shopping cart.


Pink salmon have now evolved to migrate earlier

I am familiar with this type of Middle Passage


a loved one watching you move on without a trace

the living inheriting an ocean of time


the sun rewiring the water-damaged insides

cells desiring to go back from where they came


\\ certain strands of

your kind now extinct.



This piece was originally published in The American Poetry Review

Alison C. Rollins, born and raised in St. Louis city, currently works as the Librarian for Nerinx Hall. She is the second prizewinner of the 2016 James H. Nash Poetry contest and a finalist for the 2016 Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Meridian, Missouri Review, The Offing, Poetry, The Poetry Review, River Styx, Solstice, TriQuarterly, Tupelo Quarterly, Vinyl, and elsewhere. A Cave Canem as well as Callaloo Fellow, she is also a 2016 recipient of the Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship.

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