Your browser (Internet Explorer 7 or lower) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.


Navigate / search

Looking into the Crystal Ball of the Ivory Elephant

* Remembering being young by concentrating on an object of meaning, I wrote this poem. It is curious to remember the visual splendor that our hearts have captured, and to realize that it is all still a part of us. It is with longing that I recall that glorious youthfullness when the mind is so richly employed in concentration on a single thing.

The Intricately Detailed Elephant

An elephant never forgets

I do not know for how many thousands of years this elephant has carried the wonder of the universe safely upon its shoulders. I do not know how wise its wisdom. But I have spent a lifetime in the sunny moment of an afternoon staring into its eyes. The world illuminated through study of carved curves that when so very tenderly touched make solid bone feel smooth as old leather. In this orb of the Universe, I have seen the dance of the upside down world; the aurora of light, the invisible tangible. Steadfastly with great dignity the little elephant moves without motion, upon his shoulders, weightless and united, exist all possible pasts, presents and futures.

Two inches tall and the leader of the herd. Thirty elephants, trailing down to the two mice and four smiling Buddha that all rest in stillness upon the French-polished mahogany of the Dutch Indian Trading Company writing desk.

My grandmother’s writing desk with fountain pen and blotter. Papers thick and linen, parchment for gifts of words, for sharing thoughts that are hand delivered: hand delivered to friends, hand delivered to Eaton’s employees, hand delivered to sons in foxholes and muck, hand delivered to a daughter in Montreal.

An elephant never forgets.

Playing with pieces of felt and brass doorknobs and thick cast metal items. Saved as scrap becoming exhilarating explorations; the making of machines, of clanging music, of weird contraptions that will change the world in a single moment of magic. How colourful the sky. How intertwined the crystals of frosted breath upon window’s pane.

Checkered tile floors, dresses three fingers below the knee, knitting wool in wicker basket, hair brushes and badger fur, pews of worn wood, the hissing radiators and smell of damp wool cooking.

Soft skin with soft short hairs and powdered make-up with the strong scent of lilac. Drooping eyelids looking over the tops of tortoise shell glasses. Eyes glistening behind thick lenses where half moons of tungsten light dance in soft tears.

Watery eyes that in the cold of squeaky trodden snow meander in streams down the many lines of flesh, freezing to the collar of lamb’s wool. Hands held, always hands held. Mitten happy in leather glove. Galoshes over leather shoes marching beside shuffling moccasins with felt liners worn through by spring. Drying on the rad hard as a dog’s bone.

An elephant never forgets.

Linen pajamas lying in bed wrapped in Hudson’s Bay forty pounder, sewn line marking the height of beaver pelts to gain a pot. Thermometer in mouth, mumps and measles, a service of toast with honey and a cup of Red Rose on a tray with cutlery. Sparse and special marmalade so strangely sweet. Kisses on forehead and facecloth attacks that swirled with soaps around brushcut head. A chair that never changes. A chair that no other can sit in. Kindness and caring.

An elephant never forgets.

Aged, wisdom of my heart, smiling broadly with all the lines of life carved in intricate detail. Ivory and Ebony Buddha soft and hard, firm and fair; Shepherd and guide. The thousands of chores of daily maintenance, needles whirling while soups and jellies steam. The stirring of linseed oils, the baking of cake, the making of goods for the community, the sewing of sequins. Sequins on mesh for stockings at Christmas. One begins a thousand follow, a stitch in time saves nine. Always the best went for the Church Bazaar, and sometimes something special remains.

The warm breath of spring. Hand-me-down overly large Rubber boots inching deeper, inching deeper still, inching, till water floods over brim. Sticks racing to sewers. Gardening in dark, dank, damp, black soil. Seasons of labour and smiling proudly while serving tomatoes larger than a cabbage’s head; baby potatoes and crisp peas. Snap-Dragons, that in liver speckled hands snapped noses so delicately, like butterfly kisses.

An elephant never forgets.

Testing hands closing hollyhocks upon bees, chasing sisters. A world of work, and work and love of work. A world of intricate details. Oil cans for door hinges, grease for wheels, thinner finer lubricants for the bobbins. The telling of the names of the trees to cut for kindling, for fences, furniture, Birch, Tamarack, Oak. Glues made from fish. Hand turned drills that fit in shoulders, Balls of string so large and telling, Boxes instead of bags, and nets instead of paper. Shoes that knew polish and lanoline. And meals that took days to prepare, devoured with twinkles and winks and small noises of delight. Thanks to God. Thanks to the skill of the cook. And never any waste. And never any waste.

An elephant never forgets the lessons of a thousand daily rituals. Of cleanliness and godliness, of metal locks and skeleton keys, of fixing inner tubes and picking blueberries till the coffee can is full, and crab apples that made jelly by hanging in cotton bags over steaming pots. And the wondrous, most beloved guidance of those now long, long, gone: those that have moved into the future-intangible; that dance as light in the orb upon his shoulders.

An elephant never forgets. And I shall always remember: