by David Oliveira

Consider the elephant
standing on a ball
in the circus ring,
huge legs bunched together
to balance the great weight
of evolution
on a rolling sphere
to the cheering amazement
of the crowd.
The elephant is not amazed.
It knows precisely
of what elephants
are capable.
For just a few minutes
of work each day,
it is groomed, fed,
then left to contemplate
mathematic proofs
that organize
the particulate
behavior of light
into models
for space and time —
and seldom is bothered
by the trainers
trying to learn
another of its tricks.

SOURCE: “Elephant” appears in David Oliveira’s collection A Little Travel Story (Harbor Mountain Press, 2008), available at

IMAGE: “Balancing Act” by Rachel Hester. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Oliveira, a native of California’s San Joaquin Valley, is a graduate of California State University, Fresno, where he studied poetry writing with Philip Levine. After a career as a grade school teacher, Oliveira moved to Santa Barbara, where he was publisher and editor of Mille Grazie Press. He was a founding editor of Solo, an award-winning national journal of poetry, and founded, with poet Phil Taggart, the long-running Santa Barbara Poetry Series at the Contemporary Arts Forum. Oliveira is a recipient of an Individual Artist Award from the Santa Barbara Arts Commission, and in 2000 was named Santa Barbara’s poet laureate. In 2002, Oliveira moved to Phnom Penh, where he makes his home with his partner, Vic Thong, and is professor of English at Pannasastra University of Cambodia.