Bathing the Elephant

Amarsana Ulzytuev

The elephant, image of the universe, bathing in a river clouded with weeds,
As though the very first word in the beginning of time,
Brown-and-tan all over, at times resembling earth in transparent water.
Happily heaving about in water, spraying with his trunk, playfully.

In his wake, on the ancient shore, the handler screaming something
To the woman tourist who tarried, to get off the elephant—she's from Russia,
Or was it planned this way, with thrilled howl, sitting atop the mighty hillock,
Having swallowed silt and the Biblical waters, to have to dive down.

The handler's a simple man, the word-image of the universe,
I understood the gargantuan meaning of the elephant—
May you be rinsed in sun-brimming waters, you ancient mighty word, Russia,
For the way back is not a short one.

Eternity. The handler is a simple man, the divine-eyed word bathed,
All splattered in the antideluvian splashes of worlds.
Like the very first word, enormous, eternal,
The word, bathed.

translated from the Russian by Alex Cigale