She said there was an elephant in the room
and there it was, posing as a bookcase
its grey ridged skin like weathered wood
its dusty lines waiting to be read
See how the tall yellow corn
grows as high as an elephant’s eye
the sun ripening its seed
the wind fondling its ears
Sometimes I wish to be an elephant
they say it never forgets
and for a woman of eighty-one
that would be a useful attribute
The eye of an elephant is tiny
It lies like a small lake in volcanic terrain
Within its depths you can see
all the sorrows of the world
Wrinkle is synonymous with elephant
like the wide smile of crocodile
the long neck of giraffe
the sharp spine of porcupine –
a part of what it is
Your tears and mine
and elephant tears
rise in rivulets of salt
from the same deep well of emotion
I know some of the things that inspired this poem because I was there as was Carol, pictured on the right, when the Boulder Writers poets were talking about poetic inspiration. I looked up and saw a picture of a moving herd of elephants. And somehow after that the conversation got onto Wallace Stevens and his very famous poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird which is always inspiring in that he has taken what might be considered a common everyday topic – and as blackbirds fly, let his own mind and words take wing. Carol noted that her above poem was ‘after Wallace Stevens.’ Maybe but only in the sense that she has taken several old adages about elephants… and turned them, as Stevens did the blackbirds, into a group of ideas completely different but then again so similar to that great grey mammal. ‘An elephant in the room’ for example becomes a bookcase with ‘dusty lines waiting to be read’ Maybe it’s the warm blood of the elephant itself that has led to some deeply personal and moving moments in this poem.
Carol is a well known figure in the Nelson poetry world. See more here. She has also just published her first children’s book, inspired by her first grandchild Arabella. Called Arabella and the Bubble it is a fun read and especially for those young ones who are discovering the many possibilities of bubbles. It is available to buy on the Wheelers site here. Thank you for being my guest today Carol.
If you want to read Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, go here.
This site had some interesting comments on Thirteen Ways of Looking a a Blackbird.