Posted in Africa, Elephants, Morula

Morula by Moonlight

An excerpt from my book:

As if the night air has muscle, it flexes, then strengthens, when a bulky umber apparition condenses out of darkness.  Doug moves away from Thembi as another elephant backs blindly toward us, lifting first the sole of one foot and then another for our inspection, carefully feeling her way.  It is an oblong moment, stretched by suspense.

“No, no, Morula,” Doug says, and then turns to me.  “It’s the way elephants greet each other, but I’m trying to get her to greet us face-to-face.”

Enchanted by the thought Morula might consider me a fellow elephant, I have no qualms about putting the flat of my palm against her trunk.

Her skin contracts like a giant slinky under my hand.  I gently rub up and down, up and down.  The nerves at the tips of my fingers tingle.

Astonishing warmth.

Crumbles of mud.

Bristling hair.


The massive dome of her head blocks the stars.  Her forehead is cobbled; my eyes follow its boulevard up to the night sky.

She exhales.  A gentle rumble flows past my fingers and stirs the dust at my feet.  In the distance a hyena slouches through its whoop.  Then it is quiet again and the stars lean in to listen to her breathing.


Cheryl Merrill’s essays have been published in Fourth Genre, Pilgrimage, Brevity, Seems, South Loop Review, Ghoti, Alaska Quarterly Review, Adventum and Isotope. “Singing Like Yma Sumac” was selected for the Best of Brevity 2005 and Creative Nonfiction #27. It was also included in the anthology Short Takes: Model Essays for Composition, 10th Edition. Another essay, “Trunk,” was chosen for Special Mention in Pushcart 2008. She is currently working on a book about elephants: Larger than Life: Living in the Shadows of Elephants.

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