Dust swirled around his legs, trunk, eyes,
not dust from the desert, but dust churned up
by truck tires, horse carts, camel hooves,
tuck-tuck wheels, bicycles, people’s feet.
His pace did not vary. Others watched out
for him. Today’s load was light: one man
with bundles of textiles, headed to market.
He closed his eyes at the traffic light,
shielding them from insidious dust,
heat, glare, and from flies that swarmed
around his face when he stopped moving.
Parched skin, tired bones ached
for the river, longed to feel coolness
whirling around his haunches, spray
cascading over his dusty back.
But this was Monday morning,
in the heart of Jaipur, with a full
week ahead. Not that the elephant
counts days or even knows
what they are.
Yet, he senses that the river is far away.