There’s the flannel shirted man selling
ivory next to the hotdog stand.
Is it real? Too white to be real.
this box full of small uncrafted pieces.
If they’re real, I’ll buy them.
I ask if it’s old ivory. The kind of ivory
the Romans used for the whites
of an eye in their statues. Or the ivory
the Irish decorated the hilt
of their swords with. Or the ivory
Vietnamese used as a seal
for their documents. The ivory
billiard balls and piano keys
were made of. Pre-illegal trade,
pre-ban. I have ivory rules.
An animal must be dead,
or the tusks must be so removed
from the head, so gone from the jaw
that it never could look like it had been
attached to a breathing being. It has to be
at least 220 years old, not straight from
a hunter, but four owners past the hunter,
choose the whale or elephant that is least
endangered. These are the negotiations
I make with myself. A thing so far
displaced from the nature of itself. Yet
unpolished, untumbled, not too
far from the truth.
Alexis Ivy is a 2018 recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship in Poetry. Her first poetry collection Romance with Small-Time Crooks was published in 2013 by BlazeVOX [book]. Her second collection Taking the Homeless Census won the 2018 Editors Prize at Saturnalia Books and is forthcoming in 2020. She is a Street Outreach Advocate working with the homeless and lives in her hometown, Boston.