“Paralysed force, gesture without motion;”
—The Hollow Men
The cement elephant plays chicken
with a train, forever up ahead. With painted eyes
he stares down the ghost
of that locomotive. Makes it vanish.
The town’s barren tracks like casket handles
holding nothing’s ceaseless progress. Jumbo,
the world’s most beloved behemoth,
still as a golem. Insides stuffed
with sky. Real hide
on the Upper West Side. Tusks
at Tufts U. Heart
left in Ithaca. His likeness
watches like a sentinel
over the Giant Tiger,
Walmart, Canadian Tire,
2 methadone clinics, 3 Timmies
and the charred remains
of a schoolhouse photographed by Google
the day it burned, turned
to a virtual eternal flame.
Some say Jumbo was a martyr,
charged the train to save young Tom Thumb.
But Fred says suicide,
and he’s not the only one. Sally
will just let you know
what everyone knows, but won’t say.
Jumbo was worth more dead.
It was convenient, is all,
when you consider Barnum
knew a lot of taxidermists. George reports
the tusks pushed up like daisies
through Jumbo’s brain. Candice claims
the train had the effect of a good poem.
Took his head right off,
so it rolled like a deposed despot
from a guillotine. This, his gift
to the good citizens of St. Thomas,
in place of what’s been lost:
the trains, the Sterling Truck plant
and Ford factory, the jobs and the jobs
and the jobs. There are no angels
in Ontario, says the once great slave,
only a beast paralyzed, waiting
for the 8:20 to London,
arriving any minute now.
Jacob Scheier is the author of two poetry collections: the Governor General’s Award-winning, More to Keep us Warm (ECW Press, 2007) and Letter from Brooklyn (ECW Press, 2013). He is also the author of the non-fiction ebook, My Never Ending Acid Trip, published by The Toronto Star in fall 2013.