“How to Care for Your American Mastodon” by Christina Olson

Christina Olson


Mammut pacificus

Experience: Advanced. Size: 13 feet at the shoulder. Lifespan: Dead. Habitat: Gone. Or, rather, here, but different now. Care: Your mastodon requires wide expanses to graze and forage. An adult mastodon consumes nearly three pounds of coniferous twigs a day. They prefer the tender greens. Brittle twigs will stick in a mastodon’s throat. Your baby mastodon will spend most of its early life huddled against its mother in the cold spruce woodlands. Like you, it will learn to navigate. Or it will die. Hang a heat bulb over the dry side of the habitat. Decorate with scrub and quail. Always lift at the midsection, not by the legs. Always wash your hands before (and after) handling your mastodon. Let your mastodon settle into its new surroundings for the first three or four days after you bring it home. If you see any of these symptoms, take your mastodon to the vet for a check-up: hiding most of the time; minimal eating or drinking; drinking too much; discharge from eyes, nose, or mouth; mastodon is dead; mastodon is just bones. If you have more questions about your mastodon’s health, talk to a veterinarian familiar with mastodons. If you find one, let us know.

from The Last Mastodon
2019 Rattle Chapbook Prize Winner


Christina Olson: “In summer of 2017, I was invited to serve as poet-in-residence for a paleontology conference and exhibition (“The Valley of the Mastodons”) at the Western Science Center in Hemet, California. These pieces were inspired by that time spent among the paleontologists as well as my observations of the museum’s collections of fossils, particularly Max the Mastodon.” (web)

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