Monday, June 22, 2015

Tuesday Poem - 'The afterlife of elephants' by Lynn Davidson

The afterlife of elephants

Here is the elephant at the bank
idly stirring up dust,
idly touching your shoulder.

Here is the elephant
thundering along the concrete expressway
on four unbending feet.

Here is the elephant hanging
from a whisky bottle, which is what happens
when you take him for a Grant's.

Here is the elephant with his landscape body -
those distant terraces up close reveal themselves
as ragged gouges from the rainy season.

Or perhaps it is inside the elephant
where the articulation of water occurs. Which is all
for the good. He is heating up as he gets older.


Here is the elephant
we have come far to see. Silk ripples
from the great wall of his spine.

Here is the elephant
to teach you about rhythm.
Watch the silk, it is rhythm's after-image.

If I were to write the deepest thing
inside me it would be this
elephant sound.

His eyes are so elephant
when he looks at me while
hooking up hay and feeding it into his mouth.

I try for detached
but really, I wish I could throw a beaded shawl
of water so delicately across my back.


The elephant is on his way, quick
open the window before he gets here
while there is still room for elbows and hinges.

Here is the elephant
breaking the spine of Contemporary Scottish Poetry.
There's nothing about bagpipes in there, elephant.

Did the elephant have to come
to the story-telling centre? I point to a busker
outside, playing flamenco on a uke. He ignores the bait.

So. Here is the elephant.
See how his heavy trunk droops, forgotten,
as he stares and stares at the mysterious paper sculptures.

The elephant does not know that he is also swaying
and people are stumbling back.
The elephant thinks he is standing still.

Here is the elephant.
There is no need for cats to give loneliness form,
because here is the elephant.

Every so often I meet up with Lynn Davidson, and sometimes it is in
Wellington, and sometimes it is in Melbourne. I can never be quite sure
when and where I will spot her. I think she is a bit of thistledown that
drifts to and fro, following the winds of her own purposes. Or something
very like that. Last time we met she popped up at Vincent O'Sullivan's
launch in Wellington. Just like that. There she was. But I wasn't very
surprised. For her to pop up, I have to pop up too. She was the Visiting
Literary Artist following on from me at the flat in the Square Edge in
Palmerston North, and although we exchanged emails we hadn't met
then. All this bumping into each other started happening after that.
And I was well pleased to bump into this poem in the latest Australian
Poetry Journal, because – well – I like it a lot. But as I started to type
it up I got quite a frisson as I realised it wasn't exactly about what it 
purported to be about. It's a real shape-shifter of a poem, deep down. 
But with an airy, insouciant surface. Nice!

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