Featured image by Saengduean Lek Chailert
Where elephants go to die were
departments of Spanish literature
in remote Plains and Midwestern colleges.
according to Jose Donoso. For me,
these pictures of an emaciated, starved,
older female, broken, tired, fallen
on the ground, shatter childhood illusions,
seeing majestic wild elephants in families
and herds roaming jungles at Yala, in Wilpattu,
and hundreds of domestic siblings trained
to pull trees and carry loads along island roads.
I never thought of chains on their ankles,
the whips to tame them. No longer.
Not anymore. I will not close my eyes
until they expire. Stop the whipping.
Stop chaining elephants and forcing them
to march bedecked in robes. Damn
the festival parade. Damn our thrill
seeing elephants dolled up and marching
with their mahouts before applauding
crowds. For what? What grace does
an owner gain, showing off his slave?
Damn owners. Damn the spectacle.
Damned animals jumping through hoops
in the circus. Damn the ringmaster,
investors. Damn all perpetrators
and accomplices. No more. Not
any longer. Free the elephants.
Free prisoners of conscience.
Free ourselves, friends. Now.
Let elephants out of their stalls
tonight while you sleep.
Wake up tomorrow, unshackled.
Editor’s Note: This week, there were conversations online around Tikiri, a 70-year-old elephant who participates in the Perahera. This poem continues those discussions.