poem index

Poem-A-Day

Poem-a-Day is the original and only daily digital poetry series featuring over 200 new, previously unpublished poems by today's talented poets each year. On weekdays, poems are accompanied by exclusive commentary by the poets. The series highlights classic poems on weekends. Launched in 2006, Poem-a-Day is now distributed via email, web, and social media to 350,000+ readers free of charge and is available for syndication. For more information about how to syndicate Poem-a-Day, contact [email protected].

In 2018, we invited twelve guest editors to each curate a month of Poem-a-Day. This new direction for the series provides an opportunity to involve poets with wide-ranging expertise and editorial perspectives. Learn more about our 2018 guest editors and read the poems they curated.

Song for the Woolly Mammoth

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, October 22, 2018.
About this Poem 

“I’ve been working on a series of poems on extinct animals, the Ice Age, and present-day wildlife and the environment. While conducting research, I fell so hard in love with woolly mammoths that my speaker became one. I’m aware that George Church and other scientists are attempting to resurrect the woolly mammoth through feats of genetic engineering but, for this poem, I wanted to capture what life might have been like for the mammoths that roamed 13,000 years ago on the Bering Land Bridge, now under water, which when exposed by lowered sea levels allowed animals and humans to travel from modern-day Russia to North America.”
—Lauren Moseley

Song for the Woolly Mammoth

When glaciers trapped a third of Earth’s water and drained the Bering Strait, humans
journeyed to this land where wind swept the steppes of snow, exposing grass


that would be plucked by mammoth trunks and ground by washboard teeth.
Up to thirteen feet, their tusks curved helically and would intertwine if they went on


a little longer. The beasts’ dense hair—brown, blonde, or ginger—swung like a skirt
about their flanks. I want to rest my head against that shaggy coat, to crane


my ears, to be protected from the giant short-faced bear. I want to be
their baby, wrap my trunk around my mother’s, watch the wild horses of Beringia


canter across the steppes in tawny, fine-boned movements. The thick fat
under my hair keeps me warm when the sun goes low, and I grow into


an eight-ton bull, pierce the ice with my tusks and drink from glacial pools.
The wind is bitter, but my strongest features have grown bigger than my father’s.


When summer comes I must find a mate, and it only takes a few tusk locks to show
my strength. After our calf is born, I see upright creatures eyeing him from the mesa.


I will fling them against the icy mountains. They wear our hair as if it were
their skin. Still, I will live through many winters, through each warm season’s


hardheaded matches. I know the range that slopes like the hump on my back, sunsets
redder than the long-toothed cat’s gorging mouth, how musk oxen form a wall of horns


and still fall prey to the blade thrown. I know how many herds have fled, and the curves
of carcasses stripped to bone by men, wind, and time. I do not know that I am gone.

Copyright © 2018 by Lauren Moseley. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 22, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Lauren Moseley. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 22, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.