Poem | Elephant At the Mall Grand Opening

 

The snout is delicate, snuffling, pursuing the peanut and
extending further. Considering.
Two bouts of hot exhalation,
saluting, curling around the twin-nuggets
of the peanut shell and bringing the small woody legume to a mouth
like a secret smile and then the exchange is done.

No more, nothing else to give.
But nonetheless the prehensile
poke-holes breathe, trespass on my shirt front and shoulder,
and gently, shockingly softly, cross my face.
The elm-tree wrinkles around his eyes are equalled by
seams throughout his girth.
The eyes are so small, the feet so flat and ponderously right exactly there,

and shifting unalterably in the following new position,
so weightily emphatic that
the manure just dropped on the sidewalk
is instantly trodden to flat, golden soil.
Even his shadow takes a long heart-beat
to shift and flow, passing with his keeper’s

metal prod as the weather passes, climate
altering as the world settles on.
And yet he turns back, half a planet taking a long moment
in apparent curiosity at a stranger’s bounty, wondering if
another gift might be in the offing,

so fully present, so immediately searching
with his ears shrugging upward like awnings and his skin
flowing with the argument of
muscles over his bones, that nothing can happen, now,
nothing but this great animal’s wonder.

Published in the October 6, 2017 issue: 
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Michael Cadnum’s Earthquake Murder, a new book of short stories, will be published in 2018, and a collection of animal poems, many of which have appeared in Commonweal, is in progress.

Also by this author
Two Poems by Michael Cadnum

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