Barbara Westwood Diehl

A Home for Elderly Elephants

The phone message from my daughter said simply
that the empty building and grassy field lined with tall bars
at the zoo in Syracuse where we had paused and wondered
with our husbands and the children in the strange May heat
would soon be a home for elderly elephants and that there was
no need to call back. She just thought we would want to know.

And though I had never thought of elderly elephants, I was glad

to know that all of them would come from their temples and mosques,
relieved of the headdresses and Hindu deities they carried on their backs,
come lumbering from logging camps and from Africa with their tusks intact,
and that they would come from their circus cages and big top tents
and the Ringling and Barnum & Bailey trains rumbling across America,

to stay, with all the comforts afforded elephants of a certain age,

regardless of the station each had acquired and their uncertain future lives,
where they would gather at the river, to brag a little, to reminisce,
and have their skins massaged with pumice stones and coconut husks
while eating honey from the hands of grateful children, now grown,
who call their parents and tell them what would comfort them to know.

Barbara Westwood Diehl is founding editor of the Baltimore Review. Her fiction and poems have been published in a variety of publications, including MacGuffin, Confrontation, Rosebud, Thema, JMWW, Potomac Review, American Poetry Journal, Measure, Little Patuxent Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Caper Literary Journal, Gargoyle, Superstition Review, Word Riot, and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.



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