Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The African Elephant

Photo: (c) Arne Witt/African elephant, Amboseli National Park

There is no recourse but to pause
and gasp, besieged by wonderment,
when you realize this love-challenged world
of ours, still,
is holding space for such
raw and aged magnificence.

I couldn’t have dreamed him,
not even if I were the most gifted
of dreamers –

Dreams are humble enough to know
when they are best left in
in a pillow’s shallow cup.

He’s what makes reality
worth visiting.

And, in this moment,


if Amboseli offered to write
my name in her salty dust,
I might be inclined to stay
for awhile…


A woman remembering
what it really means
to be wild.

A maiden in the bush.

I’ve met elders before;

Their palms are so worn from
story telling with their hands
that their lifelines take up residence
in their eyes.

This one too.

And on his hide,
the intersecting
valleys and ridges
of a thousand parched wrinkles
collect in drapes and folds
at belly and ankle.

In concentric circles they cascade down
the length of his long, thick trunk
to its sensitive tip -
where he explores and reasons
unreasonable things.

These places that generations
of red-billed oxpeckers
have used as perches and swing sets,
gravity employs to record time,

and wisdom earned.

He understands what a day is for.

Perhaps this savannah
wouldn’t be so dry
if we all understood.

Sometimes the vervets climb
into the acacias and tell
his story.

He collects their gossip in the
flap of his ears and lets it
bounce a bit.

Sometimes it comes closer to
the truth that way.

None of them were there
to see.

For them, the horizon lines
have always been a place
of emptiness.

He re-members herds so large
the earth was a bed of rolling,
hoof-thundering clouds.

This is what gave the Maasai their
sense of rhythm and inspired
them to take joyous leaps of faith.

This was before the free ones
were called “game.”
Before there was a price tag on
his tusks.
Before he wondered if his last
breath would be seized by bullets
and saw blades.


This would disappoint
the dung beetles,

he muses.

Still, being loyal to ghosts
is a wearisome task
for the yet-living.

How do I convince an elephant
that we can learn?

Might he be inspired to hope?

If I asked,

Could he tell me where we went wrong?

© 2012-2017/Jamie K. Reaser
Published in "Wild Life: New and Selected Poems" (

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  1. Oh-soooo Beautiful Jamie... "I couldn't have dreamed him, not even if I was the most gifted of dreamers." And I *love* your storytelling :)

  2. This touches deeply. Thank you, sister.