Saga of the Saiga

Lyrate horns of wax, translucent sheen,
Hunters covet, sharp shoot and glean

Hordes of saiga; their saga a lineage
Of skulls and bones strewn, pillaged

By poorest peasants. But the saiga’s
True worth is right under their noses:

Bones convolute and form superstructures
Of skin and hairs, a flexile vacuum, an air blower

And blunter, a siphon of dirt and sand,
A pseudo trunk, a station of mucous glands

Inflating and deflating like tiny dirigibles.
Chinese medicines lay false claims to Mongols

And Russians; the saigas vanish like their winter
Coats, fur smattered and scattered, a bitter

Reminder. Soon, the Ural Steppe will dull,
Wild blooms will not bloom, nothing to cull.


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Saiga antelope are evolutionary marvels with noses that filter out dirt in the summer and warm the air in the winter. Their populations are in dramatic decline and millions have been slaughtered for Chinese medicines. In 2015, there was a die-off of 120,000 saiga antelope (roughly a third of the population) caused by weakened immune systems and bacteria (Rabb 2015).



Paul Brooke

Paul Brooke has three full-length collections of photography and poetry including Light and Matter: Poems and Photographs of Iowa (2008) and Meditations on Egrets: Poems and Photographs of Sanibel Island (2010). Sirens and Seriemas: Photographs and Poems of the Amazon and Pantanal (2015) was published by Brambleby Books of London, England. His latest book, Arm Wrestling at the Iowa State Fair, is due out in 2018 from Finishing Line Press.