Lucy the Elephant
Lucy the Elephant
At the carnival –
We purchased tickets to view the pachyderm
behind plate glass. Our indrawn breaths, audible, as
we witnessed the horror on display, a loud whoosh
like a gust of wind, mouths agape in shock and pity.
The cow elephant, chained to the back wall of her
enclosure, punishment for her rage. (She charged
her keeper.) A first time mother mourning the death
of her baby, she refused to leave the side of her
beloved daughter. She nuzzled the cold gray body,
caressed the dead baby's side, then realized the
calf was gone no matter how long and hard she
trumpeted in the rain. Now, she stares silently at her
concrete space, choking on her sorrow and
misfortune, unable to move, denied a view or self
expression. Lucy shifts her weight from one side to
the next in her confinement: faceless, mute,
sentenced to an eternity of loneliness without her
daughter beside her. She remembers; an elephant
never forgets. They weep, it's proven.
The world ends, crumbles
and burns like Pompeii:
The city, rubble, desecration (mothers defiled, lost,
forgotten) past trashcans   filled with pizza crust, dirty
diapers, eyeless rag dolls, and maternity jeans, empty
streets squirming with worms and dying honey bees.
Inhale bone dust rising from the rubble. Beneath it all, a
cathedral of death, the entrance
They dug a tunnel by lamp shadows, a tomb underneath
an abandoned house, balloons of fire, sky cloaked in soot,
dank and cold cellar at the edge of the blistered
metropolis, spiraling down a pathway into Hell, enemy
hive bursting with souls. The air down there, thick mix of
toxic poison. Bodies dropped side by side, empty skulls
thump against each other, jaws clenched in perpetual
In chambers they lay in rubble, still as stones.
They dare not move, pray for the Holy Spirit to
raise them up, pushed over the lip of the well
by their children, tumbling
forsaken city burns. Pray, curse, mourn their collapse, silent as they
burn. The stench and black rain, black hearts bleed, polished
breastplates, waiting for battle, retreat into mist shrouded caves,
Earth's great pit. No stars. No light.
Consider their fate, rotting corpses (Eve),
liquid flesh sluiced by teeth, dismantled
inside unmarked stone vessels, crushed
by their own weight. They spoke language of the invisible,
shrouded in Adam's skin, forgotten magical decay. Children
dance atop their remains.   Bones collapse. Once proud
revolutionaries ready for war, chain mail fashioned from
bronze, baby bones, and ash of last roses. God stole their
breath. Lifeless mothers silently weeping, whisper:
If not for us, you would not exist.
My feet crush bones and spines beneath me,
the countless who went before. I wade through
carcasses waist deep, toes polished, linger over
nameless mothers, marble goddesses turned to
Athena's ashes, rain of statues, gold dust. They
dug a tomb, warrior women ready for war with
sword and fire, died in a sea of placenta, soft
rustle of beetle wings against their skin, forever
This world is ours no more.
For all the restless souls I come from,
Rome is also built on ruins :
I was here.
Janna Vought received her MFA from Lindenwood University in Saint Charles, Missouri. She is an AWP Intro Journals Nominee in Poetry for 2013 and has published three books of poetry and more than fifty pieces in multiple genres.