The shape of an African elephant’s ear
Is the shape of Africa;
The shape of an Indian elephant’s ear
Is the shape of India . . .
On the night of the birth of the Buddha
An elephant entered the dreams of Queen Mahayama, his mother . . .
And Gautama Buddha was consequently patient, strong, meek
They’re not a little clumsy?
Elephants walk on the tips of their toes.
Elephant paths in the Congo Basin mountains are near vertical.
They can move in total silence without leaving a trace.
The elephant seems unembarrased by its bulk.
They move slowly to protect their vast brain,
With which they can hear subsonic sound . . .
They can sprint faster than any human, at 30 to 40 mph,
And for longer…
. . .but you wouldn’t call them civilized. . .?
Though their foreplay can last eight days,
And that’s very heavy petting,
They can show affection without being instantly possessed
By a desire to get their rocks off on the spot . . .
And their rocks are no Milk Duds.
(One aberrant jet of elephant sperm
Will feed a forty-foot high ant hill
For a year).
Pregnancy lasts two years –
Which suggests they’ve given it a thought . . .
An elephant’s birth is attended by two or three midwives
In the center of a protective circle.
The baby’s first site is of its placental membrane
Being tweaked into the air
And flipped away in triumphant relief
Like a giant, flailing frisbee.
The herd is a mobile creche and old people’s home,
And elephants can detect fellow members of their tribe
From a distance of five miles;
Human beings from only two miles;
Makes the human aura three miles weaker.
…they will place their trunks
Into the mouth of an injured companion.
They will altruistically remove stricken fellows
Out of the line of fire.
They will nudge and nurse the wounded to their feet.
They have been known to practise mercy killing.
They will examine corpses extensively:
Scanning the whole body,
Using the dilated tips of their trunks as organic stethoscopes
Almost as if conducting an autopsy to discover how they died …..
…they bury their dead,
By covering them with mud earth, leaves and branches;
Then return later to draw the tusks
Removing them several miles away,
Or seizing them and shattering them against a nearby tree,
As if to cheat traders,
And have done so since Herodotus first recorded the ruse.
The Aryans of the 1st millennium called the elephant
Mrigi hastin –
The beast with a head-finger,
And with it, elephants can pick up a pin,
Uncork a bottle,
Pull up a tree by the roots,
Detect trip wires and traps,
Doodle in the sand,
Dowse for water underground,
Walk along river beds.
And sense alien presences from miles away . . .
Anyone in the second coming racket
Could do worse than choose an elephant . . .
And maybe even come back as a whole herd,
But who are we to know?