Many Kinds Make the Crowd

Rose McLarney

BPR 46 | 2019

There’s an old story in the newspaper—about a circus
in 1916, and its elephant. She danced in costume,

kept company with clowns, could play horn
and pitch baseball, and was marching in a parade

when she stopped. Her keeper goaded her.
She struck back. Too hard for his skull to stand.

Then the big show, the crowd convening, the crowd calling
for an execution. The beating, the bullets, the electrocution.

Finally, a crane, a chain that bore her up and didn’t break.
Among all the possible material, someone has scavenged

for details to print such as these. It is true, too,
that before her hanging, the elephant had been foraging,

lifting picnickers’ fruit rinds from the dirt.
But such sweetness does not make history. To know this

is not to be able to pick from the photo of the mob
the man who, that same day, had carried

his child to a circus. Before he finds he also holds
the ability to hang a body.