Tuesday, April 21, 2009



Miranda, as usual, indefatigable
(curiosity, unspooling like a firehose
or endless rope for her disappearing trick).
has gone on ahead to the top of the hill
to interview giraffes
But after an hour
of painted birds and jigsaw monkeys angular
in their dance and fitting together, her smaller brother
has had it. Retired, slumped in the pushchair
near collapse, I wheel him along the central path
when ahead, I see the great shape approaching;
and, as he catches it at the edge of the eye –
-the world wheeling before him-the sharp intake
of breath. Awe. A stillness cloaking him, intent
as the quiet mass fills the whole of his vision: :
an avalanche closing the freeway.

“What is it?" whispered, followed by memory- –
“Elephant” so soft you know his voice has found God
and is hushed by the language of size. Grey,
tusked and house-high, wrinkled walls and roof
are on the move to another climate or street.
Snails can carry their own - but here is proof
the whole lived-in world could be gypsy: Kamala,
I tell him, and he whispers that one too.
A name for everything, and the sound is worship.

Louis Johnson True Confessions of the Last Cannibal p13

Louis Johnson wrote some lovely poems about his children. One of my favourites is Elephant. His son’s awe at the immense size of the mammal radiates from the page. Half the fun at a zoo is watching the reactions of the human audience. Louis has a great capacity at drawing word-pictures, the sister’s endless curiosity and the son’s weariness and then reverence are splendidly presented.

Kamala, long deceased, and not replaced, used to graze on the paddock overlooking Newton athletic track. My academic athlete friend Roger Robinson announces at meetings there. When the elephant was there Roger used to warn it before the starter’s pistol went off, an announcement that always brought an ironic cheer from the spectators.

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