Posted in Africa, Elephants, Jabu

Jabu by Moonlight

An excerpt from my book:

Leaves from mopane branches litter the ground around my feet, discarded by the elephants as they strip bark.  In the daylight the leaves are reddish-colored and striped with green.  But tonight they are bleached to the color of tinsel by the moon, a hundred silver butterflies.

I look up at Doug.  “Is it true that one night you slept curled up in Jabu’s trunk?”

“Not very comfortably.”  His grin broadens.  “Hey, here comes Jabu.  Here’s my boy.”

It’s hard to believe an elephant weighing six tons with a huge, restless trunk could sneak up on us.  But Jabu has.  Like tires with low air pressure, his cushioned feet smother twigs, branches and the sound of his own footfalls.  He is amazingly silent as he stands before us.  He shifts his weight from one side to the other.

As if it was a curious eye on the end of a long, snaking probe, the tip of his trunk hovers two inches from my nose.  And I’ll bet he’s pleased he’s making me nervous.

He sucks my scent out of the air as delicately as picking petals from a daisy.

Trunk raised.  Trunk dropped.  Trunk raised.  Trunk dropped.

He loves me.  He loves me not.

His massive head is a continent, wrinkled by tectonic plates of life.  Tufts of hair stick out of his ears, an old man’s ears.

Doug motions me closer.

Standing on night-cooled sand, I lean my cheek against Jabu’s leg.  The chalk of my bones softens.  As the weight of night drapes across my shoulders, we warm each other, both of us children made from the dust of stars.



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.

One thought on “Jabu by Moonlight

  1. Again, you open our awareness to our human connection with these amazing beings. I wonder if such a revelation might not also chide us, by implication, for our dangerous smallness?

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