Phased Out

Part 1, March 5, 2015
elephants, Ringling Brothers, retirementMany fans recalled the press
of a father’s hand,
or remembered
a smaller hand, holding
a rare cumulus
of pink.

Although some
had found it unpleasant,
others, rapt in the dark,
were comforted
by the routine odors,
the sharp edges that
hit the olfactory in stages.

First, the tickle of hay,
and then the vinegar
slap of dung.
The scent of sawdust
that, when pressed,
surrendered a sylvan hint.

One could see,
from the poorest seat,
the relief map of bone,
over which was
stretched a vast grey canvas.

Closer to the ring,
flapping ears blessed
hot cheeks with
warm gusts.

All were
made dizzy
by their circling,
trunk to tail.

Trunk to tail,
they formed a chain
that linked
our earliest pleasures,
now past.

Oh, to see
their old grey bodies,
their young brown eyes.
Even their smiles
were black caverns
into which our attention
fell,
and rested.

The circus.
Without the elephants.
What will we call it now?

Part 2, January 1, 2018
“The elephants will retire to a conservation center in Polk City, Florida.”-NPR

I’m sick of being a symbol,
aren’t you?
Felt like the weight of
the world on my back,
though maybe
that was the showgirls’
high heels.
Stilettos!
My hide may be tough,
but it’s not made of steel.

And I got a cramp in my trunk
from that boxcar.

Well, this place is
nothing to turn up my trunk at,
though I feel like I’m more
of a Miami elephant.

My cousin
in Burma has got it made.
Forests, streams,
plenty of wild girls.
He’s living large.

But Polk City?
It’s kind of a backwater.
At least it seems that way
when you’ve danced
for thousands
in Atlanta,
Denver,
St. Louis.

Ringling calls us “pampered performers.”
Sure, we were pampered,
if the lap of luxury
consists of 18-hour
workdays and subpar alfalfa.

Can an herbivore
get a snack here?

Anyway, hand me that umbrella.
I’m going to stick it
in that trough
and make me a nice,
cool tropical drink:
I’ve earned it.


Photo credit: “Elephant Walk” by angela n. is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Unchanged from original.