Today's poem is by David Wagoner

The Elephant's Graveyard

Their huge gray shapes were trudging up a trail
    Against the side of a cliff and around curves
        And up across the screen near the shaky end
Of Tarzan's movie. They looked tired
    And old. They were going somewhere
        They didn't want to go but were going
Together so they could finally lie down
    And be alone on the bare gray ground
        Among stones, which were all the same shade
On the screen except for the empty skulls
    Already empty there and the new tusks.
        We all agreed with Tarzan and Jane: the hunters
Still down in the jungle going crazy
    Should leave them alone   We agreed out loud
        In the front row and up in the balcony:
Only the old ones should go to the graveyard.
    The young ones should be down there in the jungle
        Or splashing in the river. Later that summer
The circus came to town. We joined the parade
    And watched real elephants wearing canvas rainbows
        Over their gray coats, some with women waving
from the backs of their necks. They shuffled past
    Our theater on 119th Street
        Looking old and tired, even the middle-sized
Who were holding on to the tails of the big ones.
    The two smallest were running to keep up,
        Kept losing their grip, kept having to run faster
To hold on with the very ends of their trunks,
    With one pink finger, to the tail end
        Of the ones ahead who knew where they were going.

Copyright © 2005 David Wagoner All rights reserved
from Crazyhorse
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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