the elephant

The Elephant
by Dan Chaisson

How to explain my heroic courtesy? I feel
that my body was inflated by a mischievous boy.

Once I was the size of a falcon, the size of a lion,
once I was not the elephant I find I am.

My pelt sags, and my master scolds me for a botched
trick. I practiced it all night in my tent, so I was

somewhat sleepy. People connect me with sadness
and, often, rationality. Randall Jarrell compared me

to Wallace Stevens, the American poet. I can see it
in the lumbering tercets, but in my mind

I am more like Eliot, a man of Europe, a man
of cultivation. Anyone so ceremonious suffers

breakdowns. I do not like the spectacular experiments
with balance, the high-wire act and cones.

We elephants are images of humility, as when we
undertake our melancholy migrations to die.

Did you know, though, that elephants were taught
to write the Greek alphabet with their hooves?

Worn out by suffering, we lie on our great backs,
tossing grass up to heaven—as a distraction, not a prayer.

That’s not humility you see on our long final journeys:
it’s procrastination. It hurts my heavy body to lie down.



gz said...


soubriquet said...

Pachyderms do not have hooves.

Dammit, elephant, snap out of it, you're probably the coolest beast on the planet, and you're pissing about turning tricks?

Snap out of it, pack your trunk, and set off on the road to Mandalay.


red dirt girl said...

Even pachyderms get the blues sometimes ...


red dirt girl said...


a. Having hooves.
b. Resembling hooves; hooflike.
2. Of or belonging to the former order Ungulata, now divided into the orders Perissodactyla and Artiodactyla and composed of the hoofed mammals such as horses, cattle, deer, swine, and elephants.
An ungulate mammal.
[Latin ungultus, from ungula, hoof, diminutive of unguis, nail; see unguis.]

from the free dictionary

soubriquet said...

Dammit woman!

Okay, technically, the elephant's multiple toenails are known as hooves, but they walk on FEET.

red dirt girl said...

No, actually elephants walk on their toes ....