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Now Eye See

A true story
Not mine, but faithfully retold
Fact-checked by the owner
Her words recounting
Another encounter
Fellow Sentients
The evidence mounting
Not only anecdotally
Meaningful encounters
Occur with two sides only
One side a story-telling animal
The other, the other main character
Fellow animal with a story
Not articulate but vocal
Though it was the silence
And the gaze
A look we’ve seen before
Eye contact from the water
A denizen of the deep
This one a land animal
One to remember, and who

Alicia loves animals and travel
When once we were allowed
A decade ago
Found herself in Asia
A group of Westerners
Visiting an Ashram
Found an elephant there
Behind a fence
Chained to a stump
Three feet of chain restricting
They heard this young elephant
Not so long removed
From family and herd
Now to be seen and heard
In the human world
As captive, beast of burden
A heavy burden
A heavy heart for one so young
Starved for comfort
Swung from side to side
As if rocking might help

…but for the moment approaching…

A punishing stick-in-hand handler
Kept the curious away, safely distant
But the storyteller could not stay
Could not remain observer, aloof
Had to intercede, apologise
For the unthinking suffering
Inflicted by her kind
Not thinking of personal safety
When the keeper was distracted
Approached a chained wild creature
Traversed the gulf between them
In a few steps, within three feet
In the right direction, recognition
Fellow beings, something to share
Then, closely seeing eye to eye
The communing began
Friends called her back, beckoned
Warned of mortal danger
She saw no foe to fear
Instead whispered an apology
In a once mighty ear
Held a three inch gaze
Closer then, cheek to cheek
While his trunk, more versatile
Explored most gently
Every inch of her face
Two sentients connected
In a cross-species embrace
No need for speech
As they communicated
For meaningful minutes
Alas ending too soon
Then he draped his trunk
Over her shoulder
And it was over, she wept
As she could not return him
To where he belonged

One could walk away, one had to stay
Chained to a stump
One with a story to tell, a decade later
The other we just don’t know

We don’t own another human
Not any more
Abandoned long ago (mostly)
Yet we won’t disown
Owning another sentient being
We ‘own’ pets, and livestock
Beasts of burden, research subjects
For sport and livelihood
In return for meeting needs
Companionship, amusement, livelihood
Assume responsibility for welfare
But definitions shift culturally
Cruelty is not universally defined
What constitutes a feeling being
Unconscious of its rights
Neither can we agree on our own
But certainly advance them
Compared to non-human companions (mostly)
Keeping an Asian elephant
Unconsciously cruel, more than intentional
Another cultural inheritance, a norm
While we wonder about the chain and stick
What about horse racing and the whip
The point could go on and on
We all need to move on
To a more conscionable day
Embrace #thekindness
A gentler way

Oh, to disown ownership
In favour of -ships much kinder
Guardian, custodian, protector
Stepping stones to return to fellowship
Understanding sentience, sharing
Deploying kindness and compassion
Recognising species, nature
And their rights, as our own
Now eye see
Now that’s something to own

A.E. Lovell


Notes from the story owner

That was about 10 years ago in India, it seems like just yesterday, as that memory is CLEARLY in my heart and mind an incident of inter-species genuine communication, with reciprocal respect and gentleness.

My friend, the elephant
T’was when I pressed my cheek
Against his own
In silent mourning for his loss
T’was then he slowly
Inch by inch
My face caressed
Not for three seconds
For a good three minutes he did thus
He sighed and slowly again
Draped his trunk upon my shoulders
Then stood still, we
As close as we could be
Two sentient beings
Communicating without words, deeply
On my heart a moment engraved

                                                                           Alicia Gil del Real y Calvo

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