The Domestic Life of the Elelphant

The Domestic Life of the Elephant*                                                                  
Elephants, Lawrence wrote,**
let love bloom slowly
“in their vast shy hearts.”
But Lawrence dreamed.
The beasts, it’s true, were once
placidly monogamous,
plodded away in pairs
to make ponderous love.
But thrill slowly dwindled,
males turning into
five-ton Don Josés —
puffing, red-eyed, frenzied,
sloped hyena-style,
legs like baggy pants,
bent to aim an oozing
two-foot phallus.
And surfeited or not,
loud and clumsy,
stumbling over calves,
trumpeting  their maleness,
then rumbling off alone.
The cows endured,
confided in each other,
as cows will do;
forgot their absent mates
and started sharing chores:
baby-sitting calves,
foraging together,
noting a new tranquility,        
 while the males, ignored,
blundered about the woods,
humped trees or crushed them,                    
took part in jungle sports —
stomping smaller beasts,
tusking other bulls —
doing for the most part
the patently absurd.
And the males who tried return
faced only hostile trunks
instead of tempting tails,
musth***not a must
from this time forward,
although . . .  
the ladies held each year
an open house,
to let the oafs abide a week
for necessary seed.
        *Reprinted with permission of “Passages,” 2011
           **D. H. Lawrence, “The Elephant
            Is Slow to Mate”                          
          ***An annual state of sexual
            frenzy in male elephants
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