The first year
you set out the elephants
I smiled at their scarred
and broken bodies,
but the tenderness
with which you touched them
took my breath away.
I wanted to hold you
till being grown-up disappeared
and we were little kids again
watching your parade of elephants
marching under the Christmas tree,
bodies unscarred, trunks raised in glee,
trumpeting their way to Bethlehem.
And every year, in every house after,
out they came from their battered boxes,
the old gray line joined by new ones
blue and amber and black ones
fierce old warriors and tiny-tusked babes.
Every year the elephant parade grows
and every year comes
the same look on your face
as you set them under the tree,
as you return to that soft place
where no one is allowed to enter
except the small boy and girl,
noses pressed against the window
of your heart, watching the passing parade.