From Egypt to Afghanistan they rear
their ludicrous long necks, mostly in twos,
on seals and palettes. Though they’re face-to-face,
and coil their necks in such a way as might
suggest affection, one should hesitate
to think of them as pairs; for this is not
the stuff of valentines where elephants
make heart-shapes with their trunks, or cuddle up.
Despite its grace, this looping of the necks
is one long hiss; the jaws are semi-snarled;
and sometimes one can clearly see the reins
needed to make the circle stay in place.
But no collision course. Like us, they stand
apart and interlocked. They frame a space.
The illustration is from a 3000 BC cylinder
seal of Uruk, displaying a lioness motif sometimes described as
If you have any comments on this poem, Annette Volfing
would be pleased to hear from you.