THE ELEPHANTS OF PRAGUE
Prague is a resistance by existing;
a Praha-hahahaha in the face of adversity.
Among the plague columns, springtides
blossoming with Soviet tanks, defenestrations,
and Arcimboldo daubing fruity monstrosities
to stave off Rudolf’s melancholia, I think
of the elephants.
Baby was the first. Arriving at the zoo
from Sri Lanka in 1933.
In the 1970s it was Sundari and Kadíra.
Now it is Tamara and Janita.
It’s pleasant to think of elephants; ears like fans,
tree-trunk legs, clever python noses:
a Baroque emblem for a Baroque city of emblems:
Fortitudo, and the city as a howdah
But I still vividly remember 2002
watching on television as the rains refused
to stop and the relentless waters
of the Vltava kept rising over Troja.
The Nantes of the animals.
Elephants are surprisingly good swimmers.
Kadíra paddling to keep in one place,
Tantalus, just a grey dome like a rock
and periscope held high.
Even elephants have limited endurance
and Kadíra was not a friendly elephant
to be loose in a friendly city.
Shot from a helicopter. A tragedy
and martyrdom in a city that has known many.