POETRY: Sara Cooper – Elephant Giving Birth

 

Elephant giving birth
I click on the video called elephant giving
     birth.
This search and click, search and click
a thing we do now, he and I,
to make the time
pass.

And there she is. As promised. Pacing. Her
     mouth
a wide and soundless yawp. Opening and closing.
She shifts her weight from side to side,
     agitated, waiting

for what will happen.

Other animals do not feel pain the way we do,
my husband says. As though he knows. And
     the narrator

says something in a baritone voice about
     standing back, allowing.
The music is tribal. Pounding drums.
     All wrong.

We are zoomed in now. Balloon-like casing
     oozing
from her. What is that?, my husband asks.
     The sac, I say.

And I am back on the floor of our bathroom.
     1 a.m.
10 weeks along, though the heart stopped at 6.
12 hours in and my body is dropping clots
the size of my fists. My doctor’s words, you
     have to pass
the sac, my refrain. And my question back:
what will it look like? I mouth moans, not
     wanting
to make this known. Not wanting this to be out
     loud.
My husband asleep in the next room.
     Like this?

The baby elephant drops with a gush of blood
     like a river upended.
The mother turns to see. It is not moving. So

she begins to kick it. She kicks and kicks and
     turns away and turns back and kicks.

She will kick the life into it.

And I’m stuck now in this narrative. Praying
for the impossible. 2:59 remaining. Kick,
     I roar. Keep kicking.

The camera zooms in on the newly born. No
     life.

In a final effort, she wraps her trunk around
     the newborn. She
is gentle now, coaxing out the breath with
     desperate squeezes.

And as if it has always done, all along,
     the baby elephant
opens its mouth. And closes it. Opens. And
     closes,

exaggerating what living looks like.

I watch the mother watch her  newborn.
     Muscles slackening, focus fixed,
reckless kicking of moments ago not even
     a memory.

I’m telling you, it ended this way.

 

This poem originally appeared in Sara’s book Mis–, published by Grandma Moses Press (2014). Reprinted with permission.

 

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