The Elephant

Poem of the Day: The Elephant
by Dan Chiasson

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.

Source: Natural History (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005)

Dan Chiasson

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About elrondsilvermaul

I never know what to say about myself. I let what I write try to speak as to who I am. I can only add, here, that I am 72, live in a nursing home, am twenty years a cancer survivor, and identify as a gay male. I intend to use this blog as storage for poems? written over the long years (and still being written). This does not preclude other uses.
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One Response to The Elephant

  1. I posted this here because it meets two of my appreciations, poetry and elephants.

    Like

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