Having spent years watching Washingtonians pass beneath him, the elephant on the west facade of the National Cathedral has lost all patience for us. While the old line about elephants never forgetting is generally true, it’s just as true that elephants don’t remember what they’ve read in ways that we smaller-brained creatures would consider logical. As such, this discontented bibliophile sees the city through his own singleminded filter. You know how elephants are.
UBI SUNT QUI ANTE NOS CONCULCAVERUNT?
Send for some plaid piper; let him march the mice away:
Staffers squeak and scatter into fifty shades of gray.
No heroes hold the hilltop hall, nearby presides a fool;
Let Shanthi and Kandula and Ambika romp and rule!
Come, my trunk-faced children! Stomp from Carthage to the Alps.
Make the Romans quaver from their sandals to their scalps!
Send for Ethiopians, with war-mounts wont to kneel
By the walls of war-torn Mecca, and watch Abrahama reel.
Send for Greeks where tesserae wash up along the strand;
Find tuskers in the market tracing crosses in the sand.
Send riders out to Roncesvalles; let Roland raise his horn!
Bring Isaac and Abul Abaz from Baghdad’s bangled bourn.
Send for steeds from Siam, where we didn’t yield an inch!
Send for Blair in Burma (though he’ll shoot you in a pinch),
And Wallinger and Buckingham and one who hears a (who?)
And Jumbo (how?) and Jim Crow (what?) and Samwise Gamgee too.
Send for (ah!) Ganesha on a ten- or twelve-arm day!
Let trunks transform to trumpets, blow bureaucracy away,
And laugh as legends leap and lunge and light up dull D.C.!
(And if, at last, nobody comes, then maybe send for me.)
(The blogger apologizes to Langston Hughes. The elephant, of course, apologizes to no one.)
(For all the entries in this series, hit the “looking up” tag.)