Milton Acorn (1923-1986)

The Natural History of Elephants

In the elephant’s five-pound brain
The whole world’s both table and shithouse
Where he wanders seeking viandes, exchanging great farts
For compliments. The rumble of his belly
Is like the contortions of a crumpling planetary system.
Long has he roved, his tongue longing to press the juices
From the ultimate berry, large as
But tenderer and sweeter than a watermelon;
And he leaves such signs in his wake that pygmies have fallen
And drowned in his great fragrant marshes of turds.

In the elephant’s five-pound brain
The wind is diverted by the draughts of his breath,
Rivers are sweet gulps, and the ocean
After a certain distance is too deep for wading.
The earth is trivial, it has the shakes
And must be severely tested, else
It’ll crumble into unsteppable clumps and scatter off
Leaving the great beast bellowing among the stars.

In the elephant’s five-pound brain
Dwarves have an incredible vicious sincerity,
A persistent will to undo things. The beast cannot grasp
The convolutions of destruction, always his mind
Turns to other things – the vastness of green
And of frangibility of forest. If only once he could descend
To trivialities he’d sweep the whole earth clean of his tormentors
In one sneeze so mighty as to be observed from Mars.

In the elephant’s five-pound brain
Sun and moon are the pieces in a delightfully complex ballgame
That have to do with him … never does he doubt
The sky has opened and rain and thunder descend
For his special ministration. He dreams of mastodons
And mammoths and still his pride beats
Like the heart of the world, he knows he could reach
To the end of space if he stood still and imagined the effort.

In the elephant’s five-pound brain
Poems are composed as a silent substitute for laughter,
His thoughts while resting in the shade
Are long and solemn as novels and he knows his companions
By names differing for each quality of morning.
Noon and evening are ruminated on and each overlaid
With the taste of night. He loves his horny perambulating hide
As other tribes love their houses, and remembers
He’s left flakes of skin and his smell
As a sign and permanent stamp on wherever he has been.

In the elephant’s five-pound brain
The entire Oxford dictionary’ld be too small
To contain all the concepts which after all are too weighty
Each individually ever to be mentioned;
Thus of course the beast has no language
Only an eternal pondering hesitation.

In the elephant’s five-pound brain
The pliable trunk’s a continuous diversion
That in his great innocence he never thinks of as perverse,
The pieces of the world are handled with such a thrilling
Tenderness that all his hours
Are consummated and exhausted with love.
Not slow to mate every female bull and baby
Is blessed with a gesture grandly gracious and felt lovely
Down to the sensitive great elephant toenails.

And when his more urgent pricking member
Stabs him on its horrifying season he becomes
A blundering mass of bewilderment … No thought
But twenty tons of lust he fishes madly for whales
And spiders for copulation. Sperm falls in great gouts
And the whole forest is sticky, colonies of ants
Are nourished for generations on dried elephant semen.

In the elephant’s five-pound brain
Death is accorded no belief and old friends
Are continually expected, patience
Is longer than the lives of glaciers and the centuries
Are rattled like toy drums. A life is planned
Like a brushstroke on the canvas of eternity,
And the beginning of a damnation is handled
With great thought as to its middle and its end.

What I know of God is this

What I know of God is this:
That He has hands, for He touches me.
I can testify to nothing else;
Living among many unseen beings
Like the whippoorwill I’m constantly hearing
But was pointed out to me just once.

Last of our hopes when all hope’s past
God, never let me call on Thee
Distracting myself from a last chance
Which goes just as quick as it comes;
And I have doubts of Your omnipotence.
All I ask is … Keep on existing
Keeping Your hands. Continue to touch me.

I Shout Love

I shout love in a blizzard’s
scarf of curling cold,
for my heart’s a furred sharp-toothed thing
that rushes out whimpering
when pain cries the sign writ on it.

I shout love into your pain
when skies crack and fall
like slivers of mirrors,
and rounded fingers, blued as a great rake,
pluck the balled yarn of your brain.

I shout love at petals peeled open
by stern nurse fusion-bomb sun,
terribly like an adhesive bandage,
for love and pain, love and pain
are companions in this age.

June, 1958.

Live with me on Earth among red berries and the bluebirds

Live with me on Earth among red berries and the bluebirds
And leafy young twigs whispering
Within such little spaces, between such floors of green, such
figures in the clouds
That two of us could fill our lives with delicate wanting:
Where stars past the spruce copse mingle with fireflies
Or the dayscape flings a thousand tones of light back at the
sun—
Be any one of the colours of an Earth lover;
Walk with me and sometimes cover your shadow with mine.

Poems of Milton Acorn appear by permission of:
Mary Hooper
Literary Executor for Milton Acorn
Winsloe RR 10, PEI
C1E 1Z4

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