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49 The Elephant

hexagram-49-elephant‘MAY YOU FEEL the loving presence of Ganesh on his birthday (1st September)
and on yours. Namaste.’

Using trunks to test unsafe ground, these Atlas elephants were surer
than mountain goats. They widened the passes for the army – contrary
to popular belief. Their problem was lack of browse. Napoleon may have
found a few bones, kept them as mementoes. Where he came across
Hannibal’s name on alpine rocks he carved his own name underneath.

1st – The War Elephant
Tough leggings disable hamstring attacks, while armour on the leather
cinch stops enemies from hacking at the hoodah strap and bringing down
the tower where the mahout sits behind the fan-shaped helmet shield.
Out front, between sword-fitted tusks, the trunk flails its chain mace.

2nd – The Elephant Riders
Three mahouts meet at the temple. One uses ingenuity, one pain, one
love to control his elephant. Love’s ingenuity is modest – after bathing, a
massage with rocks and coconut husks. Poles and hooks in tender parts –
let us not speak of this. Love’s pain, even accidental, is never atoned for.

3rd – The Elephant as Propaganda
Alternating current is dangerous, but Westinghouse controls the electric
infrastructure. An elephant proves Edison’s point. Having killed a keeper
who’d fed it a lit cigar, wired into copper sandals, silently it dies on film –
while calls below our hearing travel from Coney Island back to Borneo.

4th – The Utility Elephant
The hydrants of the Eastern metropolis are an elephant’s blessing in a
heatwave, recycling rivers of rain in the underworld, relaying it to the
goddess who opens up clouds for her subjects’ sakes, smiling irresistibly
through her soaking, at everyone responsible enough to wield a spray cap.

5th – The Circus Elephant
Foam on the stable floor at mucking out should have been a warning.
Black temporin runs into the mouth, there’s a swelling behind the eyes,
the hind legs are wet with urine. A Swiss town shakes apart. Fusiliers are
called; then tanners and taxidermists, laid off when civic funding failed.

6th – The Elephant in the City
In memory of Jules Verne, it stomps down Threadneedle Street – all
pistons and motors, with twenty-two manipulateurs visible like the organs
in a shrimp. Each time a giant foot lands, it sends out a puff of dust. Soon
they’ll destroy the beast: it’s sickening from a surfeit of invitations.

All six – The Elephant Tribute
Just as the trunk has many uses, such as trumpeting alarm or raising itself,
arm-like, in greeting, so does the tusk, as seen in battles on a baize veldt,
masterpieces for hands and ears, and self-depiction – observe Justinian’s
Phrygian subjects, one leading an elephant, one with bejewelled ivory.

Introduction to Six-Way Mirror | The Index of Hexagrams and Cantos



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