Notes on the Existence of Heffalumps

E. H. Shepard (illustrator), Winnie-the-Pooh chapter «Christopher Robin leads an expedition».

A couple of years have gone by since I published in my American Notebook but the project was not defunct, just taking delight in a long (agitated, worldwide pandemic, existential crisis-like) slumber. It is time to rise and shine, since two of my poems have gracefully found their way into a wonderful ecocritical anthology, Poetics for the More-than-Human World: An Anthology of Poetry & Commentary (Spuytenduyvil, 2020), edited by Mary Newell, Sarah Nolan and Bernard Quetchenbach, which you may order on Amazon, right here.

Winnie the Pooh (the symbiotic creation of writer A. A. Milne and illustrator E. H. Shepard) was, and I am not alone in this, a somewhat central figure to my infant imaginary. It still brings up fuzzy feelings and memories of childhood camaraderie and extraordinary adventures of plush toys speaking, or animals endowed with reasoning and speech (Wind in the Willows by the Scottish writer Kenneth Grahame also looms large in this eerie fictional universe). While I was in Buenos Aires in 2011, researching my thesis (and living life to the full) I met a fellow student who had written a semester paper on Winnie the Pooh, capitalism and mass media and, confronted with this singular revelation, out came this poem, in which a Hefallump (a mysterious character in Winnie the Pooh, which is referred to but never actually appears in the book) polemically entreated its reader (who was, like you and I, a human, damasked, evolutionary miracle, flapping towards a promise of offspring and hope) to do anything but write another semester paper on Winnie the Pooh.


Un par de años han pasado desde que publiqué en mi Cuaderno Americano pero el proyecto no estaba extinto, sino que se solazaba en un largo letargo (agitado por una pandemia mundial y una crisis existencial). Es hora de espabilar y brillar, dado que varios de mis poemas escritos en inglés han encontrado hueco en la maravillosa antología ecocrítica Poetics for the More-than-Human World: An Anthology of Poetry & Commentary (Spuytenduyvil, 2020) editada por Mary Newell, Sarah Nolan y Bernard Quetchenbach, que podéis pedir en Amazon, aquí mismo.

Winnie the Pooh (la simbiótica creación del escritor A. A. Milne y el ilustrador E. H. Shepard) era, para mí y para tantos otros, una figura central en el imaginario de mi infancia. Aún a día de hoy despierta sentimientos reconfortantes y recuerdos de camaradería infantil, aventuras extraordinarias de juguetes de peluche, o animales con capacidad para el habla y el raciocinio (Wind in the Willows del escocés Kenneth Grahame fue también tremendamente influyente en ese universo ficcional inquietante). Mientras estaba en Buenos Aires en el 2011, investigando para la tesis (y viviendo la vida intensamente), conocí a una estudiante que había escrito un ensayo de fin de curso sobre Winnie the Pooh, el capitalismo y los medios de comunicación masivos y, enfrentado a esta revelación singular, me sobrevino este poema, en el que un Heffalump (un misterioso personaje de Winnie the Pooh, del que se habla en varias ocasiones pero que nunca aparece en el libro) rogaba de forma polémica a su lectora (quien era, al igual que tú y yo, un ser humano único, cual seda de damasco, un milagro evolutivo que aleteaba hacia una promesa de descendencia y esperanza) a hacer cualquier otra cosa salvo escribir otro ensayo de fin de semestre sobre Winnie the Pooh.

Notes on the Existence of Heffalumps

To Ruth

It hurts me in the raw, it really does, to learn you pored over
Winnie the Pooh for weeks to write a semester paper
on capitalism and mass media.

Christopher’s anarcosocialist uneven socks,
Rabbit, intellectual amidst so much fluff,
Gopher tunneling our collective unconscious,
the failed writer in Eeyore, the profligacy of Tigger,
the charlatan Owl, Kanga’s hoarding, Roo’s frailty,
and what about Piggy’ restraint, his veiled homosexuality,
or Pooh’s tame leadership, stealing honey from worker bees,
fraternizing with woozles?

It doesn’t break my heart, that’s not it, it stabs and sinks deeper,
hurts me in the raw of this savage love I have for humanity
to think you could’ve spent that time, I don’t know, say,

singing in the shower, doing charity, tending a garden,
writing a poem, falling for someone, cooking salmon,
speaking with strangers, jumping off a waterfall,
anything would do, really, anything at all,

singing a garden, doing someone, tending a poem,
writing for charity, falling in the shower, cooking strangers,
speaking with salmon and then leaping up
the waterfall yourself, effortlessly:

damasked evolutionary miracle flapping towards a promise
of eggs and hope… But what would I know?
Who ever saw a Heffalump speak?