We took vows,
two fools stepping off the cliff,
full of the soulful certainty that marks conquerors and mental patients.
Rome blessed us, I suppose,
just as it mocked Hannibal,
driving him to fits of genius and savagery.
When you haunt my dreams, I think about the elephants.
I know that um-thousand poor nobodies met their death in the mountains
just to satisfy one man's idee fixe.
I know that they had dreams, wives and children left behind,
empty bellies, infected feet, all the traveling gear of sufferers since time began,
but I lose sleep and peace only over the beasts they took with them.
We made a point, you and I,
not to mash the wedding cake in each other's faces as so many do.
We were as sweet as swans on a summer lake.
Elephants have eyelashes fit for shy nuns or reclining models.
They know low languages kept for themselves and their familiars,
and we know only dropped chances, blood, and stupidity.
Hannibal impaled and beheaded stragglers, complainers.
His own men's faces gaped from poles as warning to the rest to press on.
Was he any kinder to the elephants?
We were undone by restless ghosts, of madness, and of remove.
Elephants truly do remember every beating, and every mercy,
every bone left behind, and every calf that lay still.
I loved you, and I love our son fiercely.
If I can't forgive you, it's because of the elephants and the insanity of snow and thin air.
Hannibal is dead. Rome still stands.
Huge bones litter the Alps, with no heart mighty enough to find them, touch them, and mourn.
for "An Elephantine Challenge" at Real Toads.