For the first time as I read I was heckled - in a good way - it's great to have cheerful comments called out from the audience as you read. it shows that people aren't just politely waiting for you to finish. That's how I want poetry to be - people feeling they don't have to be quiet.
The Elephant Catalogue
I found a web site as I wrote this poem:
A catalogue of art by elephants
And all of it for sale.
The strokes of colour were balanced
Like the lines of a poem.
An elephant must know
What balance is
and what is weight.
But does she daub at random?
Does her keeper choose
From unplanned splatters
Those that he - as his name implies -
And am I reducing this warm slate creature
Who has her own private life
to a demeaning metaphor
I'm recollecting the smell of zoo straw.
I'm thinking about elephants' eyes
That do not hope to communicate grief
Because they do not think that we are capable of pity
But nevertheless communicate grief
And seem to anticipate the extinction of life,
Though it may be my own concern
Reflected back at me.
Is this foreboding captured
in the elephant catalogue?
And there are paintings by chimpanzees:
Do they convey the stubborn, randy, vigour
Who fight each other
Will also bite you
Can not be trusted
Long - surely - to escape.
Is the ape-soul captured in some
But perhaps animals don't convey
Their species-soul in paint
Perhaps they want to tell us something else
Or perhaps they wish nothing
And forget what they have done
as soon as it is finished.
Perhaps the elephant has been trained to wave her innocent trunk
Clutching this haired stick
that is a brush
loaded with ink
In the direction of the taut canvas.
Whether faked, intentional, or instinctive
One message is conveyed
By her paintings and her small eyes:
'We nearly made it
We were nearly smart
We almost matched you
But we lost
And now we are just
Until the world stops.'