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The Traveller and the Elephant

ISSUE:  Summer 1979
Kaziranga, North India

riding the elephant sideways
in a gray flannel skirt
she approaches wild rhinos

         bare feet of the driver
         steer the elephant’s ears
         three meters off the ground
         her own feet dangling
         she grips the handrails

               nothing prepared her
               for the mounting
               stairs and platform
               the launching tower

she remembers ivory
the elephants’ graveyard
in an old Tarzan film
and now this elephant a detusked male
moving at daybreak towards the river

          she wears the long gray skirt
          with its faint smell of elephant
          to symphony
          fanfare of trumpets
          oh marvelous the blind violinist

not that she can’t comprehend the elephant
or adapt to its motion
a slow roll
like a mild turbulence of ocean
in which she is not seasick

but that she never knew this kind of transport
plodding through marshland
half grass half water
trusting the great feet far beneath her
the coarse reeds opening before her


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