A Poet Awakened by Elephants

As poetry month comes to a close we leave you with the words of our resident poet Arnie Reisman.

A Poet Awakened by Elephants

A flash of memory, a bolt of melody
Emily Dickinson slept between them
Scraps of paper and a pencil beside her
Soon to turn into the sheet music of her soul

Some nights she found herself writing in jots
Some dawns she woke up ahead of her time
In the capacious conservatory in her mind
She could hear Ella Fitzgerald singing

One summer sleep in the warmth of her Amherst
It sounded like muffled drum beats coming closer
She got up and looked out her second-floor window
Light crept up through the marrow of the morning

Nearby at the train station boxcars disgorged their cargo
Circus elephants galumphed out and down Main Street
In a fashionable flow between her home and the hay field
Ambling their biddable way to the town green

Passing Emily’s witness tree in the early hours
With thoughts of performing human tricks before noon
Do their big ears magnify the thumping of their feet?
An ambiguous sight as American as chicken-fried steak

Elephants came to town like words came to her
On parade in syncopated lumber
Trunks entwined with tails
A nightwriter, she did tricks with a pencil

Instructions condensed in iambs
Constructed with the spareness of Shakers
Rhapsodically woven with moral fiber
Suitable for framing like the sampler on her wall

An unfettered imagination all her own
Like that of a child who can lose her way
Between a sugar factory and a spinning mill
And have a perfectly clear vision of cotton candy

Under the sitting branches of the witness tree
(Thoughts extreme among stretched extremities)
Some would look up and see clouds, she would
See & hear listless elephants, humming & knitting

–Arnie Reisman

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