The elephants are skilfully carved.
Sundered from dried logs
by gnarled hands in pinched villages.
Bargained for a pittance too paltry
for such dextrous dedication.
Straw-swaddled they are truck-trundled
to a cities dust, where the poor sleep
in dark shadows of public buildings,
use a fountain to wash.
In a warehouse swagged with shadows,
small boys sit, cross-legged,
coned in sky-lit light where dust motes
float in choking constellations,
speckle shifting air.
Tepid air holds taints of betel-nut breath,
gaseous farts from bellies full of hunger,
the fibrous bite of coir and cotton.
Some boys shape coats for the elephants.
Bright flutters of sequin-starred fabric,
that lure tourists eyes.
The last boy adds string.
Intricately knots about each elephant
an artistic representation of a Howdah.
His finger-skin is crusted with calluses,
an indentation where scissor handles dig,
mark his index finger with a deep notch.
He makes another reef,
follows the elephant in his daydreaming.
Crosses seas and continents,
sighs for things he will never have,
hopes for a little fish with his rice.

– Miki Byrne

© 2016, poem, Miki Byrne, All rights reserved

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