The elephant housed in a wooden shed on Essex Street.
The elephant that belonged to a Mr Wilkins.
The elephant that in the early hours
of Friday 17th of June, 1681,
went up, with its tiny house, in flames.
The elephant that you could come and look at:
something extraordinary, a walking boulder,
its nose a tree, each little eye a knot.
The elephant you would have to pay to look at,
the fee too high for most.
The elephant whose immolation was a feast:
better than a hanging, rarer than a burning witch.
The elephant whose remains might offer something
tantalising: souvenirs, tradable relics.
The elephant cordoned off by a file of musketeers.
The elephant soon housed again by hammering
carpenters putting together its terminal shed.
The elephant whose extinction brought ‘the eminent
Dublin physician’, Dr Allen Mullen,
hurrying to make his proposition.
The elephant in need of surgical care:
delicate instruments to unclothe skin
and sinew, down to the very bones.
The elephant deserving skilled painters to make
‘icons of each part’.
The elephant that by this time was emitting
‘noisome steams’ (and ‘being very near
The Council-Chamber,’ the Lord Lieutenant or Mayor
might declare a public nuisance
and everything be lost).
The elephant a team of butchers went to work on
‘in order of the making of a skeleton’.
The elephant that was ‘disjointed by candlelight.’
The elephant on whom Dr Mullen published
his famous paper, an account of ‘the first
scientific dissection in Dublin’.
The elephant that became The Elephant Tavern
for over a century, until the sign
was taken down: a creaking, burned-out song.
The elephant that was never here, detained
in a foreign room that is a burning question.
The elephant, and what it holds in store.
The elephant whose white shadow was installed
in the Temple Bar Gallery.
The elephant that is breathing down my neck
a last trumpeted, ear-quaking, slaughterhouse roar.
(published in Ghostlight: New & Selected Poems, Salmon Poetry, 2017)
Born in London but raised away, above-ground
in Dublin, the first time I entered you,
sinking through standing levels, brushed by that warm
intimate-exotic wind –– smells of caked soot,
historical dust and the third rail’s greased
lightning –– I was home, buried, breathed on,
cradled and mortally coiled, lost and found.
(published in Ghostlight: New & Selected Poems Salmon Poetry, 2017)