Sumatran Elephant (Sumatra) Pliny says that elephants are intelligent & righteous revere the stars & worship the sun & the moon. – W.G. Sebald In Lampung Province I saw a coal train perhaps as long as your wild herds might have been, or twice again as long or only half – who knows? The soot-blackened sky went wild with jets of monsoon rain clouding darkly over the cemented seaport, the terminal end of the trainline where the pitch-black piles were loaded onto Chinese freighter ships. And where were you, whose mineral bones fill the earth the anthracite abandoned? And where were you, whose generations once howled in love with a wilderness of ironwood and ebony? You were holding up the world, riding the back of a turtle; you were throwing your tusk at the moon, standing on the spine of a serpent, accompanied by rodents, a necklace of skulls across your leathern chest. Your mordant jewelry somehow presaged your quick demise, your tusks sawn to the root while you yet lived, your face torn off to a bloody hole, your treetrunk legs amputated and hollowed for umbrella stands, the tail that gave you equilibrium cut off and made into a useless decorative thing. It reminds me of the story of three blind men: one detects a tree trunk, the second a jungle vine, the third a granite cliff but none can see the whole, nor know it is an elephant they touch. Had we once touched an elephant, the elephant we touched is gone.