Wayside chapel, Chemin de St. Jacques, Auvillar, France







The way elephants stand when turning

to one side, a foreleg splayed

off center, like a very young child

learning to walk.  And the level angle                     

of the head, facing front.                                         

Looking, looking, nothing to hide.

Only the eldest races

achieve such radical innocence.



Baby elephant peering out

from among its mother’s legs, housed there,

a small deer in a close grove.



Dressing for the journey, the huge bull                                        in Quarterly West & in Homeland

flings a cape of mud across his back,

drenches his ears, his legs—

a pour-on garment he finishes

with a thick matte of dust:

shield against sun and the razor jaws

of insects.  Suitably attired,

he steps into place.



Deep in your many-corridored memory

a thick, worn volume falls open.

You draw up short,

trunk raised at the scent of blood.

Repulsed, you begin a heavy, angry dance,                       

moving in place for some moments,                                   

then back-step a dignified retreat.

The wiser monarchs

were slow to punish, knowing the power

of the forbearing gesture.  Long ago,

did your strange-shaped ancestors

decide against the breaking of flesh?

The vast brain, the large, gentle heart

forming themselves slowly out of the grass.



Down on your knees, prying loose

wafers of baked mud you munch

for essential minerals with gourmandise,

spading the rich soil deeper,

deeper, till sometimes you disappear

into delicious grottos.  So may our


sincere, enamored hunger

lead us ever farther

into the expedient earthly chapels.