V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics




Victorian scheme for a beast's mansion:
a high rotunda, its dome shouldered
by a grove of black columns, small
clerestory windows rationing the light.
On the fringes, almost afterthought,
dull, rusting reeds of bars, a mess
of straw on the slick floor.
Shadow nesting shadow, elephant's
profile in the hay-fragrant dark,
its head a tapering bulb. Lucy,
the keeper says, a familiar
through a skein of smoke, use
your strength. Open it. Her trunk
floats through bars to a strapped
bale of hay. She taps it, twice,
tucks her snout under the strap,
draws the bale against the bars,
lifts it high as a man's head—then
dumps it. The keeper drops his
cigarette, crushes it out. Rakes
his bare scalp with shaking
fingers. Good girl. Use
your strength. Once more,
the tip of her trunk grazes
the floor, and the bale rises,
dangles precariously in space—
then plummets. The keeper
shrugs, reaches to his hip pocket
for shears. He snips the strap,
steps aside, watches her
pull a tuft of hay. She curls
the feed under and back,
gracefully, making it vanish.


© by Brad Clompus


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