Say the elephant in the dream was your
obsession with the perfection of nature.
Say you remembered other deaths—that night of lightning
in the ship off the coast of Borneo, or the disembowelment
in the public square when they caught you craving another man’s
soup. By 1862, the number of boats setting out from Khartoum
equaled cups of salt you dispersed for the year
nightly onto the sheet. A corpse by any other name
could be a big anthill smelling like bread in the oven.
Sure, your friends were concerned, rightly, with ectoparasites
dispersed in hyena scat. You focused on mating habits
of the fire ants of Namibia as an astrological chart
of how, in ten years, you might count
breaths into breathing. A zodiac of milk.
In other words, I truly love my dog.
In other words, hound ears are my secret silk self
scuffling the ground. In other words, you read the love
poems of Robert Desnos but recall John Donne’s
magnificence when he wrote of elephants
as the onely harmlesse great thing.
Who is the I and who the you? So much
back and froth, lack and forth. Why the confusion
when talking of the self? I love you
the way two words in a wood diverge
and we take both words at once. The greater
word, the lesser. Like holding the woman
yet falling into her during the same night
of touch, and you sense the fishing
nets drop a great depth down
into your chest. Because you chose. Because
I chose. Because words shift into who and what
they do. Because the elephant
baby tottering in eelgrass could be the way
we see ourselves but fail the fray
of our day, as we remember
possible perfection. If we could allow the love
with which we love
others to scour back, it would say,
I remember all my other deaths, and each one—
I tell you—was human, so humanly sorrowed.