How Not to See an Elephant

Sometimes this world is weirder than I ever imagined. I was reading the newspaper and came upon the following headline: Couple sideswipes runaway elephant. WHAT??  I read the story and I just had to write about it.  What I came up with is far from a “great” poem, but it was fun to write (as doing writing assignments usually is) and I got a free-verse poem that the non-poets in my family were able to read without breaking out in hives. Anyway, I figured maybe other people might get a kick out of writing from a headline, as an “assignment,” and might get a kick out of my poem too:

How Not to See an Elephant

Night creepin’ in

a film of it

and we was comin’ back from church

holy singin’ crowdin’ every tree

(every bend of road a bended knee)

so I never seen it

till we was right up on it

and who’d think it’d be there

We was chuggin’ along

a small drop of wine at communion

that isn’t drinking

well, maybe a sip, later

but as I was sayin’

why was it there?

I swerved, else it would’ve

crashed through our roof

we coulda been killed

gored, even

those beasts are dangerous,

aren’t they?

Should be locked up, I say

not out preyin’ on decent folks

and bigger ‘n my truck

Did I say we was comin’ back from church?

Broke its tusk, I guess

I’m a lawful man

pay my taxes

put money in the plate

who’s sayin’ I should pay

for the gosh-darned dental work?


Here’s the thing: poems are out there, waiting to be found. I found this one in a headline that seemed out of sight–one of those things that you’d never imagine would ever get said, because why would it ever need to be said?–sort of how I felt about telling my children “don’t stick beans up your nose.” There are always news stories that will grab you, the way this one grabbed me. There are always things you see that start an idea growing, something that can turn into a poem. This headline, for me, turned into creating a character that probably bears no resemblance at all to the people actually involved in the news item, but this was where my mind went, what I created . . . and it was fun to do.

If anyone else wants to try this, I’d love to see the results–let’s write together!


1 Response to “How Not to See an Elephant”

  1. 1 The Hive Kid
    November 21, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Well, I have to hand it to you — this is a poem even I can handle! Congratulations on the publication of your book — it is amazing to see all of your hard work come to fruition. We are so proud of you!

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“Unlocking the Poem brings both the creative writing teacher and the aspiring writer a trustworthy guidebook and a generous resource. . . . authors Riccio and Siegel have put together a book that deserves a place on every poet’s shelf. Its copies will become well-worn and dog-eared from future service.”
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November 2009


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