Poetry of the Sacred: Seeds by Alfred Nicol

I found this poem this morning at the Thomas Merton Institute site. The poet, Alfred Nicol, is completely new to me. I love the surprises throughout the poem - that first image of the watermelon giving elephants holds my attention and lets me know that the poet is playful as well as smart. Looking at Nicol's poems on line, I feel I should know his work -- or rather -- his work makes me happy. It makes me wonder how many other poets on the other side of the country I am missing. Although I am from Massachusetts, my poetry world is where I live now - the Pacific Northwest.  Maybe it's time for me to visit Massachusetts again; it's been five years... Here is the poem that made me happy to be alive this morning. Thank you Alfred Nicol.

By Alfred Nicol
Newburyport, Massachusetts

Summers at the zoo in Baltimore
the elephants are given watermelons.
Pleasure goes rippling through their tough hides.
You see it.  Elephants are obvious.
They’re made to traipse about savannas where
they trumpet their good spirits like rotund
and rosy husbands crooning in the shower.
The melons are so cool and green, they love them.
They wrap their trunks around them, raise them up
and smash then on the hard-packed earth.
You’d need an Africa to house such gladness then—
they bring the pieces to their mouths; they slurp them;
they eat up everything, the rinds and all.
There is a saying: The eating of a melon
will produce a thousand good works. So
these elephants have got it in them now
to build a Taj Mahal. They’re keen to start
transporting heavy stones.  All for love
they store up reservoirs of dawns. It’s possible
to work for days, shining from within.
Illustrious projects stem from their delight.
The harvest moon is nascent in the seed;
the tendrilled sun is folded there.  And though
the elephant is called Behemoth, he too
emerges from delight, big with the sun
he carries in his great heart.  The same one,
that hard, bright seed of Africa—that sun,
the sun that draws the melon from the vine.



  1. Hi Kathy,
    Do you know Nicol's work? This poem makes me want to go out and love an elephant - and write and return to Africa ..

  2. So lovely. Elephants are one of my favourite creatures and this poem captures the traits I hold dear about them.

    Recently their was a very traumatic birth of an elephant here at the Taronga Zoo. The elephants reaction to the experience was quite amazing.


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