by Chris Abani
There is a place on the veld where elephants go to die.
Here they come across the skeletons of other elephants.
They pause amid the whiteness, raise their trunks and howl
to the absent flesh, circling the bones, picking up each one,
putting it down; circling one last time, they stand still in silence
for an age, then move. Steps less assured, slower.
Why was it so hard to tell my mother, I love you,
like the man in Sarah’s translation of Gennady’s poem
tracing a woman’s face with a flower?
To cling to death, to a metaphor as real as a dying parent,
is to wrap language around an absence.
There are stories that can kill you.
Copyright 2010 Chris Abani
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.