Monday, April 25, 2016



You know the language of flowers,
scents and sloped petals, stamen.
That was but one of your gifts.
You loved Irish poets and bawdy limericks, too.
Once, while trying to explain Keats to me,
I fell asleep with my head in your armpit.
Once, you claimed I was too thin,
bought me an orchid, and said,
“This is you; slanted, a frail rail
 but beautiful.”
Now it’s too late to parse,
way past pruning bonsai trees.
The second hand sweeps.
Lawyers arrive while
the lacquered table smirks and winks.
Sign here.  Sign there. Here, and here.
It’s over in a blur,
elevator doors closing like quicksand
leaving me standing
with the still-alive stem in my jacket pocket.



And when it’s finished
there are no graves for us.
Two of my brothers lay in gray heaps,
sucking mud beneath the mangroves.
Two others flail on scorched prairie grass
under the cruel Kenyan sun
as nearby Acacia trees shift with a breeze,
accomplices by no fault of their own.
The marauders sounded so merry
filling their truck bed with our tusks.
In their wake, plumes of dust
rose like tired fire smoke
while lion and leopard,
our distant cousins,
loped away with eyes wide open.


Elephant Siblings

See, little brother,
the stray Acacia trees
with their umbrella branches?
They have shade for you
and if it is still too hot
we will bathe in the waterhole
with the albatross and hippos.
Keep close to me.
Fear only the sound of an engine,
the crack of manmade gunfire.
Be alert and you might live
till the moon bows its head
one last time.



There is a rifle in your hands,
heavy as anvil.
Hearing your footfalls,
a flock of starlings lift
from tree branches like
the leftover mist of gunpowder.
Your father whispers, “Quiet,”
for the fifth time.
When a buck enters the clearing,
you are to take aim.
The animal is both ignorant and beautiful,
wild and alive.
You count breaths.
The sun is in your eyes, on your face
like a hot slap.
Squinting, you sight and fire
shot after shot
as the sun winks back at you,
pleased as a parent.



Midday sun broods over our cul de sac
across the street a moving van
sullen workers loading appliances
a sofa, two flat screens, cardboard boxes
everything but the crib and baby clothes
which must have been donated or destroyed
a lifetime ago.







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