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Saturday, 15 August 2009

Elephant Cemetery


File:An elephant herd at Jim Corbett National Park.jpg

To feel a sense of loss is our next assignment. We zoom in on an elephant graveyard. The red baked earth of the plains, the dry, withered foliage. The great beasts are taking turns paying last respects, pawing with heavy gravity maybe just to stir up a little ceremonial dust. A kind of halting inquiry, tentatively caressing the remains of the loved one with a tenderly lingering trunk. Gentleness perhaps masks the quality of interrogation in this process. Ah, dear gone one, what do you know now, is there any of it you can tell us?

Elephant herd at Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand, India
: photo by wribs, 2007


Scott Keeney said...

Love the contrast between the tone (setup by the first sentences) and the imagery. A clinical tenderness? Especially love the closing: "dear gone one, what do you know now, is there any of it you can tell us?"

- - -

Here's to feeling less of it. said...

Interrogating the shades. What a beautiful awesome (respectful) tone (as if they can really tell us anything we don't already know - or will find out anyway in time - been meditating (always) with your poems, Tom

Melissa said...

the mask of gentleness to begin my day-
As always, thank you Tom

Mariana Soffer said...

Beautifull. Lately I was talking about elephant cementeries, cause it is amazing the rituals they have and also the way they mourn their loved ones. What a coincicence tom.

Stu said...

Mariana, I agree, this is beautiful.

I love the 'clinical' framing of those first two sentences though.

TC said...

Thank you sweet people all.

Re. The clinical framing of the first two sentences -- I wanted it to be clear we are viewing a scene we are not of. Always at our distance.

By the penultimate sentence "we" (I) have moved in perhaps too close, so there entered the motive to stiffen things a bit, again, by admitting we're never dispassionate in our poking around in anthropomorphic projections from what may finally be inexplicable conduct on the part of other species.

Theirs is what it is and what it means we may never know. Would that ours were half so tender, though.

With these evidently and maybe interrogatively grieving elephants it's perhaps best to watch and interpret for yourself without the sound track which explains things to you:

Elephants Mourning

And here, for a bit of cheering up, are a couple of elephants engaged in what can only be regarded as amicable water play:


Pinkerbell said...

Tom, this poem works very well indeed in framing the writer/reader as merely an observer, but a empathetic observer trying to understand the feelings of the elephant. All animals feel the loss of their companions, they must do, but these creatures have different rituals.

This poem makes me sad. For some reason elephants showing emotions makes me sad, I think they are very close to us humans somehow.

TC said...


Yes, it's hard not to feel sad.

However feeling is a sign of life.

And I'm always grateful to you Pinkerbell for sharing your feelings. I am never tempted to forget you are a human being.

And that is more than I can say for the proliferating swarms of bots from all across India, Indonesia and Malaysia who are currently doing their best (bottest?) to turn this blog into an Elephant Cemetery.

(What they want of it remains to be seen, as there is not much flesh left to be picked over on this rotting old pile of bones; but hey, maybe all it takes to sustain a bot is a shred or two of electronic gristle.)

Pinkerbell said...

Someone else told me yesterday that feeling is a sign of life, funnily enough. Do you ever find that several people in your life are suddenly on the same new wavelength at the same time?

This affected me greatly in a way I needed to be affected. Seeing animals grieving shows that we too should allow ourselves to grieve. Being stiff-upper-lipped is a purely human quality which is a barrier to healing after loss.

Sorry for being maudlin though...

Zephirine said...

Parents of a young soldier recently killed in Afghanistan, interviewed on TV yesterday:

Father: You get used to crying, though.

Mother: Yes, you don't think anything of it.

Pinkerbell said...

Zeph - I guess some tragedies are so great that they just bust that stiff-upper-lip so much that it gives way. Once you let it give way it's hard to get it back.

Things seem to have gone mad in Afghanistan, just as one of my young friends is training up in the para regiment to go there. I do hope that some peace can be found soon and they didn't die for nothing.

Anonymous said...

The elephant ritual of death will continue to be mysterious for us humans, even though we keep observing, and drawing conclusions and shooting documentaries. It is just amazing.