Pachyderm in the Privy

A poem of support, to amuse and to talk about the large animal in the room.

The Pachyderm in the Privy

How a pachyderm landed in the privy I don’t know
Seems quite awkward a place for him to go
Now that he’s there he’s blocking the flow
Ever since he appeared several years ago.

I know it’s awkward you don’t want to say
Seems elephants like to play with bidets
He may wreak havoc one of these days
Open the door gently and throw in some hay.

Talk to me about it, four ears are better than two
Tell me what’s old, weigh in with what’s new
Vent frustrations ’bout what’s askew in your loo
Here for you now and when he’s back at the zoo.

I’ll hear your troubles, I’ll hear your pain
We’ll march that pachyderm back down the lane.

–Rebecca Cuningham, 27 September 2021


What subject is your elephant in the room?

Elephant Friends Photo: I Kd

Rebecca Cuningham

37 thoughts on “Pachyderm in the Privy

  1. An interesting recollection of an elephant in a room, by Julie Cordero-Lamb:
    “I want to tell a story about an invisible elephant.
    Once upon a time, when I was in graduate school at UCSB, the department of religious studies held a symposium on diasporic religious communities in the United States. Our working definition for religious diaspora that day was, “religious groups from elsewhere now residing as large, cohesive communities in the US.” It was a round table symposium, so any current scholar at the UC who wanted to speak could have a seat at the table. A hunch based on hundreds of years of solid evidence compelled me to show up, in my Badass Academic Indigenous Warrior Auntie finery.
    There were around 15-20 scholars at the table, and the audience was maybe fifty people. There was one Black scholar at the table, and two Latinx scholars, one of whom was one of my dissertation advisors. The other was a visiting scholar from Florida, who spoke about the diasporic Santería community in Miami. But everyone else at the table were white scholars, all progressively liberal in their politics, many of whom were my friends. Since there was no pre-written agenda, I listened until everyone else had presented. I learned a tremendous amount about the Jewish diaspora in the US, and about the Yoruba/Orisha/Voudou, Tibetan Buddhist, Muslim, and Hindu communities, and even about a small enclave of Zoroastrians.
    As they went on, I realized my hunch had been correct, and I listened to them ignore the elephant, invisible and silent, at that table.
    So I decided to help her speak the hell up. “Hello, my name is Julie Cordero. I’m working on my PhD in Ethnobotany, Native American Religious Traditions, and history of global medical traditions. I’d like to talk about the European Catholic and Protestant Christian religious diaspora in the United States, as these are the traditions that have had by far the greatest impact on both the converted and non-converted indigenous inhabitants of this land.”
    Total silence. And then several “hot damns” from students and colleagues in the audience. I looked around the table at all the confused white faces. My Latinx advisor slapped his hand on the table and said, “Right!!?? Let’s talk about that, colleagues.”
    The Black scholar, who was sitting next to me, started softly laughing. As I went on, detailing the myriad denominations of this European Christian Diaspora, including the Catholic diocese in which I’d been raised and educated, …
    It got a bit heated for a few moments, as several scholars-without-a-damn-clue tried to argue that we were here to discuss CURRENT religious traditions, not ancient.
    Well. I’ll let you use your imagination as to the response from the POC present, which was vigorously backed by the three young First Nations students who were present in the audience (all of whom practice their CURRENT ceremonial traditions). …
    Our Black colleague stood and left without a word. I very nearly did. But I stayed because of my Auntie role to the Native students in the audience.
    I looked around at that circle of hostile faces, and waited for one single white scholar to see how unbelievably racist was this discursive erasure of entire peoples – including my people, on whose homeland UCSB is situated.
    Finally, a friend spoke up. “If we are going to adhere to the definition of diaspora outlined here, she is technically correct.”
    And then my dear friend, a white scholar of Buddhism: “In Buddhist tradition, the Second Form of Ignorance is the superimposition of that which is false over that which is true. …
    And you know what happened then? The elephant was no longer invisible, and my colleagues and I were able to have a conversation based on the truths about colonialism and diaspora. …

    Liked by 1 person

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