Postcard: Elephant Breeding Show, Thailand

“…That Beloved has gone completely Wild— He has poured Himself into me!” ~ Hafiz

From four months of travel in southeast Asia
with her boyfriend, one of my daughters
has brought back beads and woven scarves;

books, a granary god hewn from a small block
of darkened wood; and a few postcards from Thailand—
One shows gold-filigreed Wat Phra Singh temple

in Chiang Mai, ancient capital of the northern kingdom,
where they’d gone to see thousands of glowing lanterns
bobbing like celestial jellyfish in the sky during Loi

Krathong; the second, two little boys in saffron robes
adorning a buddha’s image with flower garlands; and last,
two elephants in an elephant breeding show, their rippling

flanks painted with scarlet, gold, and green scrolls,
red-pantalooned handler crouched underneath the canvas tent
formed by the female’s outspread body, another handler

holding her lowered head… I’ve read somewhere
that the elephant is among only six or seven
animals the world over, holding the distinction

of having the largest genitals (surprisingly,
the barnacle tops the list, with penis length
the equivalent of 240 feet in human measurement).

The postcard has no other caption or explanation,
no notes, no narrative, not even names for the two
at the center of this larger-than-life display

of heated encounter. I wonder about the sounds
they make, the length of his and her arousal, the smell
and quickness of release, and whether or not they

mind the ring of voyeurs gathered around:
snapping Instagrams as the slick grey muscle
stiffens and thrusts, recording videos to upload

on YouTube even before they’ve returned
to their hotels— Our youngest girl, pre-teen,
budding feminist schooled in cell division

and meiosis, thinks this picture is practically rape
(three males— elephant, two native handlers, who knows
how many spectators), and depicts the female’s abuse.

She cannot wrap her mind around this evidence
there are apparently carnivals built around the fact
of large animal coitus; but sees, intuitively,

the connection to shows like “The Bachelor”…
As for me, it is the chalked scrolls of heraldic
gold and red that fix my eye: how the female’s,

in the picture, hold their color and bold shape, while
the male’s are already a muddy run of dirty green
where the forefeet rasp across her rendered back.


In response to thus: come and drink your fill.

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Poet Luisa A. Igloria (Poetry Foundation web page, author webpage ) is the winner of the 2015 Resurgence Prize (UK), the world’s first major award for ecopoetry, selected by former UK poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. She is the author of What Is Left of Wings, I Ask (forthcoming, 2018 Center for the Book Arts Letterpress Chapbook Prize, selected by Natasha Trethewey); Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press eChapbook selection for Spring 2015), Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (Utah State University Press, 2014 May Swenson Prize), Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, 2014), The Saints of Streets (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2013), Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press), and nine other books. She is a member of the core faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University which she directed from 2009-2015. In 2018, she was the inaugural Glasgow Distinguished Writer in Residence at Washington and Lee University. When she isn’t writing, reading, or teaching, she cooks with her family, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.

1 Comment

  1. So vivid and beautiful! I can see it. And like the discussion of sorts with your daughter’s view.


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