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Booth #23 at the Wellfleet Flea Market

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.

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