Academic journal article Parnassus : Poetry in Review

My Mothers's Elephants

Academic journal article Parnassus : Poetry in Review

My Mothers's Elephants

Article excerpt

Because of their size, and the shape of their ears,

and the sweetness and wisdom she claimed to see

in their miraculously-lashed eyes, my mother,

for as long as I can remember, loved elephants.

At the zoo, she would linger, chuckling, before

their house, the babies in particular seeming to hold

some charm for her, their wrinkled legs belying

their years. Someone in cruelty had called her

an elephant once when she was a girl because of her size,

which she could not control, despite a diet of not much

more than cigarettes and over-perked coffee. Perhaps

her fondness for those creatures started then,

a way of turning the pain around, as after her death

I would tell my friends that it was easier to love

my mother now that she'd lost the burden of her body.

When she began to collect them-china, brass, and sea-shell,

carved into the tops of wooden or pewter boxes, blown

out of glass-it was a relief to all of us, I think, to have

something to give this woman whom almost no gift could please.

Now she had found one small, true thing that could never

fail her. Regardless of value, she adored them all, arrayed

them across her piano, her dresser, the windowsills,

as if, like guard dogs, they marked the perimeters of her turf.

She hardly went out at all then. The cough that embarrassed

her children, rising as it would at all the worst moments,

kept her at home. …

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