Space Oddity, a poem for David Bowie. And Rhinos.

Ground into paste then mixed
with chamomile & verbena, the rhino

horns are guzzled as a cure for cancer,
their filaments leeching
pathogenic heat from the blood

so that it can glide, cool & pure,
from heart to toe & back.

Or, as a swank aphrodisiac,
they’re passed around like roaches
at a party to grease the wheels

of foreplay. Less death, more
sex: marketing doesn’t get more

effective. That’s why the Jeep’s stereo
bleats across the Serengheti,
the blue sky & torched earth

staring each other down like mismatched
eyes. Mark’s driving because Becky

took a second longer to pull
on her boots, & Dave’s rubbing sleep
from his cheeks as the homing

device quickens, its beeps
turning from a sprinter’s heartbeat

to a continual whir
until the dip in the plain reveals
the rhino’s hulk slumped in the red

dust. Dave & Becky are on the ground
before the Jeep even stops.

It’s only been minutes since
the 2000 pounds of black rhino
had been darted from above,

but the tranquilizer skimming
through its blood won’t last,

so as Bowie croons to take your protein pills
& put your helmet on, Becky tugs
the blindfold into place over its eyes.

The others finish fastening the rhino’s
tree-thick ankles just as the helicopter

veers into view, its staccato peal slicing
Bowie’s voice to a disjointed blur,
& before ground control can even declare

that it’s time to leave the capsule
if you dare, the three have attached the cords

& given the pilot six thumbs up.
The helicopter clambers back into
the sky with the rhino hanging

from its underside like a dull pendant,
its toenails scratching the clouds. I’m floating

in a most peculiar way, Becky sings along,
& by the time Major Tom is drifting
in his tin can, the rhino is halfway

across the sky. By nightfall, he’ll be pawing
new ground far from poachers,

& Becky & the boys, having just seen
something amazing—a rhino flying
as high as the most buoyant ember-flecked

warbler—will lean back between drinks
as the first few pinpricks

of light poke through the dark fabric
of the sky. & the stars
look very diff-er-ent today.

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