Poetry Map of Scotland: poem no. 325

The Falkirk Wheel

For Phillip

Each gondola could carry a herd of a hundred elephants.

They visit in the summer months,
swaying their heads at foreign plains,
the Grangemouth flare unsettling
in the distance, until

there comes a moment
when, together with the sun,
they catch the glinting eye,
of one or other horse’s head. And stop

their muddy wallowing
in the Forth and Clyde canal,
their trumpeting old tales
of umbrella stands and ivory.

They walk in single file,
silent in their padding
of a soft grey line — straight
to the metalled-wild of Kelpies.

There all one hundred of them kneel,
rest their trunks down
on the grass
and pray.

They say the zebras sent them,
ask the spirits for a spell
to make the rain again at home —
bring the water back to their Savannah.

Then, their pilgrimage well done,
the time is theirs —
they climb aboard,
give the wheel a whirl.

Alison Cohen

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