192: The Death of an Elephant

192: The Death of an Elephant

192: The Death of an Elephant

The Death of an Elephant
by Gianfranco Pagnucci

Read the automated transcript.

a transformation

She stood
apart from the grazing herd
except for a slowed
curl of her trunk,
her head lowered,
her great ears flopped forward
like a closing umbrella
as the bull
came to sniff.

When she dropped to her haunches,
the herd
screaming and trumpeting,
a fallen half-moon
around her.

Her forelegs collapsed
and she slumped to her belly,
a Dagon come tumbling down.
Only the young ones
were allowed
to touch her now:
one laid his trunk on her back;
one nuzzled her ear;
one strained at her great fallen rump
as if pushing toward life
and learning of death.

Then the great bull,
head lowered,
tried to lift her with a roar.
He moved to her head and tried to lift her.
He tore a trunkful of dry grass
and stuffed it in her mouth
over the dust on her sagged lip
to lift her.
He tried to mount her into life.
She heaved to her side
and was dead.

It was sunset
late African spring
and December,
as a restless
feeding herd came
one by one to the gray body
and moved off
together over the ridge
into the dusk.

"The Death of an Elephant" by Gianfranco Pagnucci from FACE THE POEM by Gianfranco Pagnucci, copyright © 1979 Bur Oak Press. Used by permission of the poet.