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Poems and Thoughts    by Frank Maurer

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The Elephant and the Tree (1977).

I was leaving my belov-ed Africa completing five years of teaching.
From Lesotho (Le su tu) I flew for a last stop in Malawi.
I had the choice of a hotel and walking the town,
Or rent a car in which I would sleep and see some sights!
Hard to guess which I chose--------.

With the car, I needed food for my travels.
Coming upon an outdoor market, I purchased a huge hand of plantains
With several bags of tangerines--both easy to peel.
Then I was off down the dusty road to where?
Gave someone a lift for a while and chatted country politics.
(Banda had killed perhaps one person in every Milawan family!--so he said.)
Then went on and found a national game park.
Signed in and settled into my cabin.

Explored out in the bush for a time, with wondrous fascination.
(I kept my white flannel shirt on, covered in red African dust.)
Ate a bite from my stash of plantains and tangerines,
Then wandered out again near dusk for good wildlife viewing.
Walked along a lake's shore to my right, probably full of crocs and hippos.
Passed further on to discover a huge bull elephant now in sight.
I watched him feeding on branches for several minutes.
It was becoming darker.
Suddenly I heard a trumpet and saw the ears out and the trunk up!
Wind shifted. I knew I needed to leave--fast.
Crocs now to the left and a long open slope to the right.
One lone tree far ahead--my only hope.

I ran as I had never run before--my high school records were all shattered.
MADE IT, with a huge pachyderm just behind.
The tree's root mass, from past flooding, was wide, like a giant bonsai.
The elephant rounded to the right,
I rounded back to the left.
Then the other way for both of us in our opposed motions.
Two or more semi rotations and then a pause.
I had my foot uplifted on the tree root
And it trembled beneath my body in exhaustion and exhilarated fear.

Suddenly nothing--no sound--and I wondered where we were.
Slowly creeping around to see if the huge animal was there.
Not a thing------.
Then the sudden crack of a branch and I realized it had silently left to feed.
I slowly and carefully slunk out and back to my cabin,
Still so full of adrenalin, but quieter,
I lay down on my cot and left the world in excited slumber.

Frank Maurer 14 January 2023 1800 Hours.

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