Traces of an Elephant’s Tears (Empathy)

I feel the tears,
although there is only a trace now.

Just like the baby elephant,
alone in the zoo,
abandoned with only a memory
of the mother it will never forget.

And what about the mother’s tears?
The tears of the herd?

It is not absurd
that my maternal instinct rears
in despair
at the distance forced between an infant

and its family –
it could have been you and me.

Kim M. Russell, 13th April 2021

brown elephant

Image by Javier Márquez on Unsplash

My poem for dVerse Poets Pub Poetics: The Print the Whales Make, also linked to earthweal open link weekend

I’m hosting at the dVerse Poets Pub this Tuesday with a prompt inspired by Marjorie Saiser’s poem ‘The Print the Whales Make’, a very personal poem, written in the first person, a love poem, but also the capturing of a moment on a boat, and the whale itself, an endangered species, a mystery of the sea. What I love about this poem is the way the poet links the ring a whale’s diving draws with a human relationship, physical and spiritual; unlike the extended metaphor in Rumi’s poem in my last Poetics prompt, this is about something we have in common, a trace that always remains.

The challenge is to write a poem in the first person that compares some trait of ours with something animal.

51 thoughts on “Traces of an Elephant’s Tears (Empathy)

  1. you had my eyes filling with tears… the tale of the baby elephant away from its mother is a really strong image to show the parting between mother and child. It makes me think about the adoption scandals that is now being exposed where children have been stolen from mothers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t like to make a grown man cry but thank you for your tears, Bjorn. I was watching a report about a baby elephant taken from its mother and left in a zoo all on its own and this poem just popped into my head. I’ve been reading various reports of adoption scandals and children being taken from their parents. I can’t begin to imagine how they must feel. I was out of my mind when my daughter went missing at an open air concert when she was three.

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  2. Oh this is tragic, Kim, that baby elephant

    ‘abandoned with only a memory
    of the mother it will never forget.’

    the way we treat animals is atrocious, so I’m pleased you brought in the ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ clause at the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t mean to break your heart, dear Linda! I too have various elephant items in my house including bookends I have had for over forty years. Their tusks were lost over the course of time, but I can’t imagine being without them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have bookends too that I found in an old antique shop. True story, I paid a whopping $35 for them and found them on an online antique bidding site and they are valued at $495! They are a very heavy metal and old.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my aching heart this is poignant! 💝 I resonate with; “It is not absurd that my maternal instinct rears in despair at the distance forced between an infant and its family.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A parent’s worst nightmare, no matter the species. How a baby elephant was allowed to be smuggled in and how a zoo is allowed to exhibit this poor baby is a crime against god. I think of all of the baby cows ripped away from their mothers so humans can drink the milk. Stolen children ratchets it up even more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! Elephants evoke strong emotions in most people. I have a soft sport for them, although when I was a small child, one made me cry when I fed it a bun. 😉

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  5. I too got teary eyed by this one Kim. So poignant! ❤️

    Especially this:

    It is not absurd
    that my maternal instinct rears
    in despair
    at the distance forced between an infant

    and its family –
    it could have been you or me.

    And no I don’t think it’s at all absurd. Since becoming a mother such stories hit me much harder then they did befor. I too thought of the adoption scandal, I’ve read so many articles about it now, crying each time and wondering about the adopted kids I knew in childhood. Each with an “abandoned by their parents story”.

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  6. Powerful write, Kim, so much so I’ll intrude and suggest a different title – “Empathy” and a word change in the last line, from “or” to “and.” A great response to your challenge which, as you might guess, is very close to the heart of ecopoetry.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A bang on theme that crushes the prompt. I chose gorillas for my poem. When they capture a baby for the zoo, they always have to kill the mother, twice the tragedy.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Poignant and heartfelt! The title “Traces of an Elephant’s Tears” does make me think of the journey the baby elephant has been on and as mothers with maternal instincts it is natural for us to show empathy! 💝

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Any mother understands the pain of mother and baby in this instance. When baby elephants wind up in zoos, most likely the mother has been killed for her ivory. Sigh. Imagine the distress of that baby, jammed into a boat and taken so far away from his herd. Humans have no clue.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I have read so much about elephants and how they “feel” such loss for others in their herd. I have seen film of them revisiting the remains of elephants who fell victim to poachers and how they would stroke the bones with their trunks. Years after a separation they will never forget another elephant. Really quite amazing creatures ❤️ Your poem captures it beautifully and tugs on the heartstrings Kim.

    Liked by 1 person

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