Amy Lawless

from Elephants in Mourning

Elephants come across an elephant carcass in the wild.
They gather in a defensive circle around the bones and rotted
Flesh. They pick up a bone and another bone. They rub the bones
With their trunks. They touch each bone with a hind foot.
They investigate each part of the Body, put the bone in the mouth like a cigarette and it
looks like it’s smoking it. For a moment I feel like I’m watching detectives gnawing
On a new case.

This means something.
One day my matter will return to the land.
The water in my body disperses
And isn’t replaced with new tap water.
Let’s all drink to the death of a clown.
The water will go into leaves.
What can I leave here?
There was a ritual, and now she is gone.
Visit remains.

When an elephant dies
The lover will approach and stand there
Seemingly clueless about what to do.
When an elephant dies he tries to necessitate the other elephant.
This is called searching for meaning.
When a human dies
A person who’s spent a hundred thousand dollars on medical school
Will confirm that
Something is gone.
Spirit? Animus? Evelyn?
Something left the room.
And now here is matter. Calories of energy.
Rotted DNA. Hair thinned.
Once the oxygen hits it will be read.
Once my grandmother told me that if a needle got into my bloodstream
It will go all the way to my heart and pierce my heart and I’d die.
This made no sense but her passion convinced me. And I feared the needle.
Any needle. Why couldn’t I have been encouraged to be bold?
Why was I encouraged to be afraid?

When an elephant dies you want to be immediately pregnant so you can feel the huge
cessation of Earth life while stroking your own belly and its hugeness. When an elephant dies they are all emotionally affected and you are emotionally affected unless you have a condition or you were born that way or you have Alzheimer’s. Elephants are known for their memories. But you’ve been surfing the internet and not paying attention. You’ve been watching Law and Order episodes, eating candy, and texting jokes with your best friend. You’re also cooking a batch of cookies. Pay attention. Pay attention. I’m only going to say this once.

When an elephant dies
Please don’t eat chips in the corner after a five hour-long wake
Because the daughter will take her trunk
And beat you with verbs and nouns.

When an elephant dies
Sometimes the remaining elephants become distressed
Because there’s no evidence of an afterlife.

People like the word faith.
Elephants don’t.

When an elephant dies
Sometimes all you have to do is be there
And no one will judge you
If you don’t say something witty.

Sometimes when an elephant dies
I want to grab a bunch of scientists
And one scientist will wipe the tear
Out of the elephant’s eye
And say, “I can explain” and draw the bone
From the mouth of the living.
Scientists are people who can explain things
To us. They have brain matter and
Access to tools that elephants don’t have.
I can explain, one will say.

But getting an elephant to let go of the bone
Is an entirely different matter.

Amy Lawless lives in Brooklyn. Her first book Noctis Licentia was published by Black Maze Books in 2008. For more information, check out her blog: Sometimes she blogs for Best American Poetry.

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