by Graham Lewis
Daughter goes off to college, looking into her empty room at home
Twenty-seven carved elephants stand silent sentinel over an empty room. From wooden shelves high on the wall (shelves I made for you), their etched and beadwork eyes overlook a desk covered with scattered papers, pens and paper clips, already acquiring a faint patina of dust. Your chair sits half-angled, pushed back in a final forgotten moment of rising. Your bed lies tight with hospital corners, something I know you would never have done. The memorabilia on your dresser sits in random patterns, flotsam and jetsam from your young life in motion.
The elephants watch morning light slide into the room, dust motes drifting in its beams, tracing a slow fall through unmoving air. The elephants see light brighten and bolden, watch the mirror fling it against a closed and indifferent closet door, solid and still. The elephants stand through long hours of light, until it pales, fades and withdraws into night, a slow tide that leaves things grey, then dark.
The elephants stand through the night, and they stand as light returns each day. The motes accumulate, like snow when air grows cold. They settle light on desk and dresser and elephants, undisturbed in a lifeless room, skiffs of snow the sun will never melt.
You gathered these elephants, named them one by one, your treasured symbols of life and mystery. I know them as nameless, though each speaks your name, which I cannot bear to do.
Twenty-seven elephants stand sentinel in your room, solidly blessed with the numbness of wood and stone. I cannot watch with them. My numbness is too frail.