The Elephant Myth
by Jessica E. Lindberg
My father was born in India, but
he does not need elephant knickknacks
to remind him. We, his three kids,
got that wrong. In our childhoods
of gift-giving, when we could have picked
socks or a sharpened chisel
we went with a miniature elephant
carved out of tagua nut. We went
teak pachyderm to crowd the mantel
with the rest of his stocky herd.
I could identify the hunch
of an Asian elephant’s back,
the African’s larger ears draped
like gray tablecloths. He insisted
we get the species right, at least,
although I see now his aim was less
wisdom and more population control.
On birthdays, he might have liked
to make us his famous pecan pancakes
on an unscathed griddle, but
we just gave him more elephants.
Like the blind men in the parable,
we ran our hands over his foreign birth story
and felt pieces—his mother’s scarlet
fever, her empty breasts, the manservant
spooning rice pudding—
we made of these portions, his whole elephant.
We gave it back to him again and again
as if to say here you are,
you belong to us now, remember.
Jessica E. Lindberg teaches at a community college in the northwest Georgia mountains. She is up against the ten-year deadline to finish her Ph.D in poetry at Georgia State University. Her work has appeared in Mississippi Review, Sand Hills Literary Magazine, Old Red Kimono, and sometimes on her parent’s refrigerator. Jessica and her husband raised two sons and enjoyed it so much they had another boy, sixteen years after the first two.
A 2018 Pushcart Prize nominee, Lindberg's poem can be found in Issue 17 of Glassworks.