|Lucy the Elephant by Acroterion, Wikimedia Commons|
Yes, this is a metaphor for composing a novel or for persevering through any long effort. The work may take years. The results may not represent much of an achievement. But you do it. You get it done.
It's not about actually eating elephants. But also, it is.
The first bite is thick, red steak,
fresh catch, initial conception.
Blood dribbles down my chin.
My mouth waters for the next.
The fourth bite is a lump of gristle,
a bit of fatty, knotted muscle.
Already, this is becoming a chore
but I work it into smaller pieces.
The fifty-seventh bite is fur.
My nose rebels. My tongue curls
to feel the coarse hairs and stringy flesh
but I know the deed must be done.
The six-hundredth bite is greasy fat
and the meat's going bad
and oh god I can't finish.
I'm not going to make it.
It's too big for me;
it takes too long; I can't.
Someone at the table mentions
if I'm sick
I'll have to eat it all again.
Bite nine-hundred ninety-nine
I cough back onto the plate,
pick it up, swallow it.
I can't taste anything; my nose is numb.
The meat has gone sticky with disease.
I find it hard to remember
the texture of the first mouthful,
it was so many napkins ago.
Bite two-thousand twenty-five
is a rare bit of good flesh,
hidden in all the stinking rot.
I'm pleased to discover this tidbit,
celebrate with a sip of wine.
Bite five thousand is a morsel
I actually look forward to.
Yes, it's only a bit of tendon and bone
but as I bite down on the tine of the fork,
I bravely grin to those around me.
Bite seven thousand seven
is the very last toe.
I don't like toes
so I decided to eat them all at once,
chopped fine, a salad.
Now I'm finished with them
and feeling better.
Bite ten thousand, the tuft of the tail,
tastes sweet, for I am finished.
My friends raise their glasses in toast.
A smile goes round the table.
"What next?" someone asks.
"Now," I cry, full of victory,
"on to the next elephant!"