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From: Vol.10 N.01 – The Transformative Now

Rhino, absent

by Cindy Botha

Listen: an afternoon thick with cicadas. Thirsty 
air wicking sweat from your back. 
Bring a measuring tape  
and pay out six feet in the dusty grass― 

because it begins with the horn. Ends with it, too. 
Lie down beside this imagined horn 
that is longer than you. Alive like a tree― 
barked and scarred. Living. Believe in it. 

Score hoof-prints in the baked clay, 
each a three-toed ace of clubs. Rest your heart 
in the cradle of one. Feel the rumble 
of stampede. 

With eyes pressed shut, 
sniff acacia leaves, and scat. The donga-whiff
of drying mud. Sun-hot hide
a boulder for your spine―lean into the flank.

There is no flank. Lean against the rubbing-stone
polished through centuries. 
Generations of shoulder and haunch.
Seam your cheek to it. 

Block your ears to rotor clamour, AK-47s. 
The chainsaw. Turn from the convulsing ants. 
Sand rich with blood. In the stillness 
he tries to stand. Ears twitch at flies.
Listen: in the dried-up riverbed 
the wind grieves. Wait for darkness―


What if the only evidence of dark matter  
is in its appetites. If it’s the colour of thunder, 
storms it’s eaten. Stars.
If people are the colour of river dolphins,

icebergs. Of old-growth forests. 
If matter exists until it’s the snuffed candle
of a dark continent. 
If hunger feeds on, blindly.

If West African Black. Northern White.
If last horn from the last―
torn from the last―
If the escarpment rears up as herd. As mirage. 

What if gone is a museum of stuffed pelt 
and glass eyes, but also of silence 
beyond measure.
Stillness past weighing. 

If eustasy is a word we know 
without knowing we do. So too: Eremozoic. 
If ichnites endure in the dry torrent  

of a ravine―but shivering mineral heat 
is the only thing moving. 
If the earth forgets 
the weight that once trembled 

veldt grass. If the grass grows tall and craves 
the horned shadow 
that moved over it. If the sun forgets 
the shape of the shadow―
Published: June 2023
Cindy Botha

was born in Kenya, grew up in South Africa and now lives in Tauranga, New Zealand. She began writing at nearly 60, and has since been published internationally. She was awarded first place in the Rialto Nature and Place Poetry Prize 2020 and her work appears in two anthologies of ecopoetry: Poetics for the More-Than-Human World, Spuyten Duyvil Publishing, USA, and No Other Place To Stand, An Anthology of Climate Change Poetry, AUP, New Zealand.

An Australian and international
journal of ecopoetry and ecopoetics.

Plumwood Mountain Journal is created on the unceded lands of the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora Nation. We pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to elders past, present and future. We also acknowledge all traditional custodians of the lands this journal reaches.