Let the Bone-Fire Burn!

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I'm speaking and performing some poems tomorrow in Manchester after a march as part of both the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos, and 100 Thousand Poets for Change. If you'd like to take part we're assembling in All Saints Park, Manchester at 11.30am. Or look on the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos website, and there may be something going on in a city near where you are. I've written this poem especially for the occasion, based on the biggest ever burning of a confiscated ivory and horn stockpile, which happened back in April this year in Kenya.



The animals are ruffled in Nairobi National Park -
a gruesome row of pyramids is puzzling the residents.
A baffled zeal of zebras and some tantalised giraffes
are asking "Why are they heaping up the tusks of the elephants?
Why are they stacking up the rhino horns too?
There's a man with a torch - is he the Kenyan president?
Where is the sense in what crazy humans do?
Why let it burn?
Why let it burn?
We thought that people yearned
for trinkets carved from ivory and for potions made from horn.
Why let it burn?
Why let it burn
when criminal gangs can earn
a 100 million dollars, isn't that a good return?"

A wise old hippopotamus explains the men's hypothesis:
"They're doing it to publicise the poachers' atrocities,
to post a message in the press
that horn and tusk are valueless,
that ivory's just a broken tooth
obtained by murder and abuse
of elephants on a mammoth scale,
and rhino horn's not horn at all,
it's clippings from a fingernail
it's sweepings on the barber's floor,
it's junk!" he says, "and I know
it's never worked as medicine,
it's just a protein, keratin,
no use to any living thing 
except our friends the rhinos.
They're on the brink
and in a blink 
of twenty years they'll be extinct."

So let it burn!
Let it burn!
Let the bone-fire burn!
Put the butchers out of business till the elephants return.
Let it beam
like a beacon to the brokers in the East!
Let it blaze above the bloodshed till the ivory trade has ceased!
Let it burn
till they learn
in Hong Kong and Vietnam
that those "doctors" are imposters
and these treatments are a sham!

Because the TV cameras were all focused on the pyre
where thirteen thousand tusks and two tonnes of horn were blazing,
nobody noticed as the blood flecked flames rose higher
animals in the shadows doing something quite amazing:
the lions and the wildebeest had formed into a choir
and the cheetahs and gazelles had joined together and were phrasing
their new-found comprehension of the purpose of this fire,
and the rangers who protect them were the ones that they were praising:

"Let them live!
Let them live
and elephants will give
a blessing on humanity if you cherish them forthwith.
Let them live!
Let them live
and rhinos can forgive
the bullets and brutality you used to kill them with.
Let them live!
Let them live!
Let them...live!


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Harry O'Neill

Fri 23rd Sep 2016 20:06

The enthusiasm -almost - overcomes the meter and the rhyming. (stanza four resists admirably though)

I`m convinced (even though I am somewhat scared of both Rhinos and Elephants) I`m on your side.

Love the `zeal of zebras`

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