“No, no, no,” I said, “I can’t”
ride upon that elephant.
The creature lowered to one knee,
leg bent to make a step for me,
and seconds later, I was in air.
Was it courage or a dare?
Each leg gripped on a massive shoulder,
balanced on that giant boulder
of a back, somewhat nonplussed
as his handler swore and cussed
to not take down that massive tree
so long as he was bearing me!
Whereupon, once told “You can’t,”
this timber-working elephant
turned to descend the river bank.
I gave the rope a mighty yank.
(That was all I had to hold
as this leviathan grew bold,
intent on giving me a bath.)
His trainer ran to bar his path
and none to soon, in my opinion,
relieved this mammoth of his minion.
Soon after we had said adieu,
I faced adventures that were new.
It’s hard to see what I had there
around my neck, beneath my hair.
That snake wrapped loosely around me
hung writhing down below my knee.
I blew the pungi, hoping harm
would be abated by its charm.
What possessed me, I don’t know,
to agree to this viper show.
I wasn’t squeezed, I wasn’t bitten.
The snake was docile as a kitten.
I was a foolish girl back then.
What wild adventures way back when.
I’m pretty sure this is a python around my neck. I don’t think I would have been foolish enough to drape myself in a cobra, still, his owner had a pungi, which is what snake charmers use, usually to “charm” vipers or cobras. (Actually, it is the motion of the instrument, not its sound that weaves the spell.) I had on a top that was perfect camouflage for the reptile. Both of these photos were taken in Sri Lanka in 1973.