“Male Mammoths Died In ‘Silly Ways’ More Often Than Females, Study Finds”

— NY Times, November 3, 2017

by Susan Blackwell Ramsey


No one who's lived in a small town would be surprised.
No high school teacher, state cop, mother of sons

would wonder why two-thirds of the mammoths preserved
by falling through thin ice or into sinkholes

or washed away by mudslides should be male.
Elephant clans are matriarchal. Females protect

the young; the oldest females are the wisest.
But at puberty males leave the clan,

becoming loners or forming bachelor gangs
led by inexperience. They steal cars,

drink too much, dive off dams or into quarries
headfirst, start wars, explore the South Pole with ponies.

Herds were likely evenly female/male,
but more males died in ways that would preserve them

for history. Females were sensible, took care
of everyone and died anonymous—except

for that last third the study ignores, the females
among the males, the ones who worry me.

The one who breaks my heart. You've seen her, too.
Ankle bracelet, acne, tank top. The one who's left
pinned in the wreckage of the stolen car.

Susan Blackwell Ramsey is a former bookseller who has taught 9th grade in rural Indiana, the graduate poetry workshop at Notre Dame and knitting/spinning at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. Her work has appeared, among other places, in The Southern Review, 32 Poems, Poetry Northwest , and Best American Poetry. She has received fellowships at The Vermont Studio Center and MacDowell, and her book, A Mind Like This, won the Prairie Schooner Poetry Book Prize.