I Feel Like an Elephant


Because June, for all of its weddings and graduations and summer celebrations, is also, for so many I know, a month to remember those we have lost, I decided to share an old favorite poem of mine. Both of my parents died in June. A dear friend’s deceased son was born in June. There are days that simply make us feel . . .

Like an Elephant*, a pantoum
for Pauline

I feel like an elephant
big and fat, dumb with grief
hovering over my mother, a pile of bones
slowly the herd readies to move on

I’m big and fat and dumb with grief
I nudge her hoping she’ll sing or rise
the herd nods to the horizon, slowly they leave
I stay to coax and stroke her cold dead hide

I beg her to sing to laugh to rise
her silence carves a bowl into the sandy earth
I wait and watch her cold breath hide
the ugly buzzards begin their circle

Her death fills the bowl of sandy earth
a gray mountain of mother, finished
I throw rocks at the big hungry circle
I lay across her sad shrinking flesh

She is a gray mountain of mother and stone
I shiver, move away from the pile of bone
lumbering from her shrunken flesh
I feel just like an elephant.

*Elephants mourn.

Photo by Jennifer Latuperisa-Andresen on Unsplash

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