Monday, April 23, 2007

Why the Blue Elephant?

When I started this blog, I asked "Why 'The Blue Elephant'?" Maybe I will begin to explain here:


April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated. The man named James Thomas Eilers become, for a time, an elephant. Later, he considered returning to the human state when he understood that he had become an elephant in reaction to King’s murder: “If this is what humans do, I no longer want to be a human.” Of course, elephant or human, either way you are an animal. Still, there is some kind of difference, as expressed by Chuck Jones, cartoon animator, creator of Bugs Bunny and Wiley Coyote, among others, “It’s a lot easier to humanize animals than it is to humanize humans.”

The first elephant verse – I am not sure whether I will add others that came out later, over the period when the elephant worked his way back to being a human – and I don't know if this will have meaning for anyone else -- was written in 1969:


I am a drunken dancing elephant
schlipp-schlopping around the page
in ship-slippery slippers.

What a funny giraffe you are,
writing your minimal poems,
placing your feet precisely there.

A miniature camera held to your eye,
you force that child to jump and jump again,
but the child of a beautiful moment
jumps like a wooden doll.
He begs you to let him go –

Ooo! That went right through me!
Schlipp-schlopping around the page.

– James McColley Eilers, copyright 2007

This elephant was an aery totem, but then poet Louise Nayer, who knew the elephant keeper at the San Francisco Zoo arranged for me to visit Penny, a real elephant, in her compound:

Elephants find refuge at

No comments: