Elephant Grave

Victoria White

2012 First Prize

After an elephant dies,
the herd may carry its bones for miles.
Did you know that? Hefting them over
the flatland ebb and flow, as

years ago we trekked
the backwoods of late November,
New England burned out like candlewick.
White light parted maples then,
found me chasing your footsteps
as you led us home.
Last fall the hills blazed red— 
I wonder if you tasted smoke, oceans away
as the first shells hit and
you couldn’t run.
Did you think of the leaves
we used to bring home and tape up,
the way they all withered in the end?
Even the best, the brightest
come to nothing, I learned,

because there wasn’t a body
even though you promised to come back.
I broke when I heard you were lying
alone in scrub grass,
no one to lift you up, knowing
you were precious.
Brother, I would have carried you
on my shoulders ’til the horizon bent for us
and our forest dawned along its edge.
Imagine, and the maples stoop to greet you,
saying welcome back,
welcome home.

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