News Poetry: The Last Rhinoceros

I take my daughters to the zoo, to visit Sudan,
the northern white rhino, who exists, now,
only as a vial of frozen semen.

My youngest wants to pet him, wants to rub
him warm between her small hands,
but the keeper won’t allow it.

So we merely look at him, there in his plastic tube,
imagining, like we’ve done with the Javan tiger,
the Caribbean monk seal, the Pyrenean ibex,

what he might have felt like, smelled like,
sounded like, back before they froze him
and shrunk him down to the size of peanut.

I take pictures of each of my girls posing
next to the freezer. We sign the visitor log
and collect our complimentary Sudan water bottles.

Before we leave, I buy them T-shirts and ballcaps,
each printed with Sudan’s likeness. How cute
the way the tube rests there on the porcelain plate.


Editor’s Note:  Sudan, a northern white rhino and the last male of his subspecies, died recently at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

Photo credit: Pardee Ave., Creative Commons, Flickr 
Jose A. Alcantara is a former construction worker, baker, commercial fisherman, math teacher, and studio photographer. He currently works in a bookstore in Aspen, Colorado. His poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Poetry Daily, The Southern Review, Spillway, Rattle, Beloit Poetry Journal, and 99 Poems for the 99%.


  1. What a wry homage…. I wept when Sudan died and I wept at this poem.
    Man should shrink in his shame—he abdicated on his stewardship of the innocent denizens on the planet.
    He continues to abdicate.

  2. Thank you for your response. Soon the innocents will have the planet to themselves. May they do better job than we did.

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