Jacob Scheier – Jumbo Elegy
“Paralysed force, gesture without motion;”
—The Hollow Men
The cement elephant plays chicken
with a train, forever up ahead. With painted eyes
he stares down the ghost
of that locomotive. Makes it vanish.
The town’s barren tracks like casket handles
holding nothing’s ceaseless progress. Jumbo,
the world’s most beloved behemoth,
still as a golem. Insides stuffed
with sky. Real hide
on the Upper West Side. Tusks
at Tufts U. Heart
left in Ithaca. His likeness
watches like a sentinel
over the Giant Tiger,
Walmart, Canadian Tire,
2 methadone clinics, 3 Timmies
and the charred remains
of a schoolhouse photographed by Google
the day it burned, turned
to a virtual eternal flame.
Some say Jumbo was a martyr,
charged the train to save young Tom Thumb.
But Fred says suicide,
and he’s not the only one. Sally
will just let you know
what everyone knows, but won’t say.
Jumbo was worth more dead.
It was convenient, is all,
when you consider Barnum
knew a lot of taxidermists. George reports
the tusks pushed up like daisies
through Jumbo’s brain. Candice claims
the train had the effect of a good poem.
Took his head right off,
so it rolled like a deposed despot
from a guillotine. This, his gift
to the good citizens of St. Thomas,
in place of what’s been lost:
the trains, the Sterling Truck plant
and Ford factory, the jobs and the jobs
and the jobs. There are no angels
in Ontario, says the once great slave,
only a beast paralyzed, waiting
for the 8:20 to London,
arriving any minute now.
Jacob Scheier is an award winning poet, journalist and essayist. He is the author of the poetry collections Letter from Brooklyn (ECW Press, 2013) and More to Keep us Warm (ECW Press, 2013), which won the 2008 Governor General’s Award His poems been published in magazines across North America and aired on CBC radio. His poem “Jumbo Elegy,” published inVallum, was recently nominated for a National Magazine Award. He is also co-winner of a 2009 New York Independent Media Alliance award for best feature article: “The Anti-Bloomberg: Can I Get an Amen?: Co-written with John Tarelton: The Indypendent 14 August 2009. Jacob is the author of the nonfiction ebook My Never Ending Acid Trip published by The Toronto Star (2013), a frequent contributor to Toronto’s NOW Magazine. His most recent work of nonfiction is the personal essay, “The Rabbi” recently published in Brick . This past spring, Jacob was the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Pierre Berton House Writer-in-Residence in Dawson City, Yukon. This fall he will be an MFA candidate in creative non-fiction at Ohio State University.
To view other poems published in this issue please visit Vallum’s website here: