Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Whatever Held Me

I see him only by absence,
a big chunk of sky with no stars, shifting slightly,
just yards away. No fence between us.
No light but the kerosene lantern in my shaking hand.
No sound but tearing grass. How can something so big
move silent as a shadow?

It’s probably the same big bull
who wandered through the camp yesterday. I was reading
on the cabin porch, willfully ignored his approach
courting—what? Risk? Thrill?
Mere naughtiness on my part? My parents’
anxious attention?

Or something else—something vast and grey
that drifted toward me with all the weightless grace
of a full spinnaker. Something truly wild,
not to be petted. Until he put his foot on the step—

where later I would show my parents
a print of crusted dirt—

raised an inquisitive trunk toward me. My nerve broke.
I retreated inside the cabin.

He wasn’t afraid. He’s not afraid now. Why would he be?
It’s not even as if I startled him: he sees the light
from my lantern, probably recognizes me by smell,
certainly can hear the pounding of my heart
where I stand just inside the outhouse. What to do.
How do I get back to the safety of the cabin.

Whatever held me on the porch whispers now
that I could walk out there, past him, in perfect safety.
That the flimsy walls of the outhouse are no protection
in any case. That he could pull the door off its hinges
and me from this meager shelter
for mere curiosity.

I don’t stir.

My father brings the car. The elephant moves off
unhurried. We’re all relieved

except the elephant, unconcerned and wondering about the fuss
except whatever held me on the porch…

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

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