Monday, January 4, 2021



An elephant never forgets, so,
in this cement cage in the zoo
for long years I remember:

the tall grasses and delicious leaves
of the savannah; plunging into
the river, the joy of spraying
water over myself with my trunk.
I remember dust baths, and
the trumpeting call of the herd
when it was time to move on.

I remember freedom and joy,
holding the tail of my mother,
when I was small, her tender trunk
reaching back to guide me;
the whole herd forming
a circle of protection
around me when danger
came near.

I remember:
my mother's shrieks of pain
as the Two-Leggeds gunned her down,
ripping off her tusks
before she was even dead.
I remember my trauma,
my grief and shock at being in the world
without her. And then it got worse:
bad people herding me into a truck,
taking me a long way away
from my kin. I remember the big ship,
pitching and tossing. I never knew
the world could be this cruel.
I was one year old. A baby,
who only had one year
of mothering.

An elephant never forgets, so
I remember the kindness of
one of my caretakers; the cruelty of
another; the poking sticks,
the lashing whip. Fear, always fear,
vigilance at each approaching stranger:
does it have a soul, or is it
one of the Others,
the ones with dead eyes
and no hearts?

Thirty-five long years have gone by in this sad
little cavern. They call me the loneliest
elephant on earth but I know there are others.
Across the sea, I can feel the herd yearning
for me as I long for them, pining for the
wide yellow grasslands of my youth,
for my mother and aunts,
for those days when I ran and played 
with the other calves.

Now They are coming; again, a crate,
once more I am taken to  an unknown place.
But wait! Here there are others of my kind.
For the first time in years, my trunk
touches another's with relief and joy.
I weep.

Perhaps here, my heart will begin to heal.
I beg them with my eyes: please,
oh, please, let me stay.

I used poetic license to describe the background of my elephant. I don't know Kavaan's history when he was a yearling. He is 36, and has been in a zoo in Pakistan for 35 years, so there was likely trauma. He now is in a sanctuary in Cambodia, part of a herd again at last, though elephants usually stay, if not interfered with, in their matrilineal families.

I am certain that elephants, along with the other wild creatures, know exactly how dangerous humans are. The wild ones already feel the effects of the climate crisis most keenly. The only beings who prefer the comfort of denial  are we humans, even though the crisis is accelerating at a terrifying rate.

for my prompt at earthweal where we are considering When Animals Speak, writing in the voice of a non-human being, about how they are impacted by humankind and/or the climate crisis.


  1. Good friends of mine spent a month in Africa last January. Their Christmas letter described in vivid detail the magic and wonder of animals in the wild. Elephants parading past them, a tiger in an overhead tree. The spent much of the month in total awe. I have a difficult time with animals in captivity!.

    1. Me, too, Helen. It is sad there is a need for sanctuaries, where they can be safe - the best of them are huge, and the animals get to roam free as they would in the wild, but are protected from poaching - as much as is possible. They hire rangers to guard the property but, it being so large, poachers are still a problem.

  2. What a sad tale. I hope the elephant finds a home now. You describe the plight of animals in zoos very well. Suzanne of Mapping Uncertainty.

  3. An Elephant's journey beautifully told. Your words conveyed a heartfelt plea and message. I felt teary eyed at the image of a trunk touching another trunk.

  4. Of course you did a wonderful job of making me cry...again.
    Thank you Sherry for your heart and for raising awareness of the terrific abuses that we bestow on animals including the gentle beasts.

  5. That story had me in tears too when I saw the video. How can we do this? We have something monstrous in our hearts.

  6. Getting inside this poor elephant's head is so powerful - I hope he will have new memories of the herd

  7. Just read your poem again. Nice that it has a happy ending.

  8. This is a heartbreaking tale, Sherry. How appropriate that you asked the question:
    'does it have a soul, or is it
    one of the Others,
    the ones with dead eyes
    and no hearts?'
    I do wonder about us humans, sometimes.

  9. Sherry, this absolutely breaks my heart.

  10. What a tragic poem, Sherry! You captured the elephant’s voice beautifully and brought a tear to my eye. Another animal that has been on this planet longer than humans, and so badly treated by them. You led us into a false sense of security with the opening stanzas, spun it around with the ‘circle of protection… when danger came near’, and then plunged us into horror and the sadness of the ‘loneliest elephant on earth’.

  11. It seems we never consider that animals (or plants for that matter) might have either thoughts or feelings. It's a sad story, told over and over and over again.

  12. Memory must be a function of spirit, the expression of heart over time: We learn so much about that from this lonely elephant. You use the timeworn phrase of "elephant's memory" to great effect, remembering what there was, what was lost: And the animal thinking here is far on the over side of the fence of human action, which is for us to decide. Strong, vital response to the challenge, Sherry, loved it. - B


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