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The Elephants

from Stopgap

CL Young


it is not a book I need
but a catalog to reach out and hold
to remember I have a body
it should be next to my bed and I should
upon waking be able to touch
even while still asleep if I can touch it
I will know
in the morning if
and how I am still alive


cake frosting on all doors each door a separate kind of cake
this one carrot that one German chocolate red velvet

our hair in the car moving toward the future

my hand in icing
I softened
half-buried in the blue blue ocean

I never watched you pull your hair up how did I get it so tight and loose
did your mother teach you sit out in the garden think about the ground in summer

you had a drink in your hand and it was sweating

blank face a mirror to take apart cut layers from
melt to magnifying glass hot August
insect in the sun line burn body pop

far out back of house backroad to hills’ black licorice
shining excrement of deer


no logic just a way to move
from sleep into waking

because I want a place to return to
does not mean I will always return


oh dear o hear grandmother you are a pile of wood
o grandmother you are even smaller
fell dry and yellowed needles to the ground
men with matches lit fire country

in flood climb higher

I waiting thin mattress on the floor
for you in my blue shoes cooling

summer day at the house on the hill eating watermelon working it down to the teeth
the rind bitter your face from here I sure now how to be no need to
look at you back then back at me to know if I’m doing it right

you said the Prayer of John brought me to ease my parents’ grief
I wanted to marry a socialist
there was nothing you could do
people to fill people driving fast down

it was like that for you I guess
olive skin big lips top of hill
ritual all the flowers and skies and the little bugs
magnolias my feet stomping ants by the front door
can I love that can I love
your singing

sang songs to them
as they died I sang songs to all of them

grandmother I brushed my hair put lotion
on your hands your knotted pines our face
sinking I remind you there is ugliness and I know this
there is a diamond in your eyes inside
my eyes my eyes my my


they put menstruating women in a room together
and called it a dying place

woman wore wedding dress backwards
got married in a circle down by the river

her house the field her home the meadow

language a process history
bleeding profusely with no new life

important that everyone be eating
a hot thing from a plate or bowl
taken all the way in

to weight the self
in time

or when I tear the machine
out what pours


it is


filling the god-

did not know
there was onename I knew
until spring :

walking with you in Portland in the sun you smoking just back from middle of country so tired always so tired so sweet Minneapolis
you said momdadbrother you said



fills the god hole

five months laterpoetry
now your fatheris dead(your son)

and what hole
what hollow

what motion is this
you have not written

any poemsyou are in love
with a woman

hernot writing but

Rachael sees food
when she hears


Lilly sees color

said her colors
don’t require
the stage

of consciousness

capable of naming


said Catie
is peaches
and colored peach


bury yourself
in the ground

or they’ll

they bite

I keep the skin of the first summer [peach] from splitting / spend fifty dollars on underwear

too sweet juice

run down



beauty drip to elbow

I tried to taste
but I could not reach
erotic threat
sad stories

skin puncture

they bit

where I bit

the drip
dried gloss

I have been running too

to rid myselfmurky clay cast
across solar plexus
I run and run
am getting fast
school zone speed check
limit LED yellow number saw

my existence as

not a car said 8 MPH sogreat victory oflife

movement the only anchor movement the only anchor movement the only anchor movement the

light bulb / I mean hold your face to a desk lamp / see how you see / how you only see yourself

so sun

my covered body

fastly this only joy

o chestI have seen wonder
have filled myselfsitting daily alone
in front of my dead and dying family

but I’ve got a candleI’ve got some matches
and some pretty flower petals
sometimes an empty bowl

or water

the bulbs
sitting here
on pillow
cased in yellow

where were you
when that was a color

against my cheek
you wake up tomorrow you sit you wake up

not too many of us
left in thisfamily

more every day


on the drive

phone photo of my father holding Hattie
Hattie after Harriet
peachlies peachlies she called us
peachlies all of us

first Harriet is gone awhile
long enough to name

a baby after
other grandmotherdead toojust
summerJuly the color
of her face

we are getting smaller

my fatherhis hands


new Hattie towhead blonde
another summer

so small and fat

if I make one of those
will it keep me

from waiting
to die
will it keep me
from wanting to

little girlno idea yetin her face that her hairher face

made of
hundredsof gone faces
sothose pictures look

my chestabdomen buoyed light from insideof shut up eyes
iris expanding   skull   someday organdonorsomeday

where’d you get those

sitting alone sitting trying try to arrive to see


those eyes

o uncle,
o grandfather,
o Harriet

Annielittle lonesome

this is not a good story

it is

your dead
your dad

drunkin his car
on the side
of the highway

early winterhow can I


brown ground

first November freeze
Horseshoe Bend Hill

tire curve

when I don’t know

if he died

got still

or got cold


some funerals in a row
no shoes no color
addressing empty
room on the way to flowers
in my arms again the flowers
flower in the ground


you wanted a river but I saw a lake
calm between gray mountains
how can it get that blue
alone in winter
you on summer chaise
left me asleep
all day in wet swimsuit
sugar and salt my belly gold
around your wrist
men passing before you
screaming oh nothing
just a woman here a little
lonesome around the table
teaching me how
pearl pearl reverse loss
by suppressing the feminine
no line between my father yours
your brother no son
what husband
will I have this year
what we did without them
was what we would have done
you trying over and over to find me


sun too high no ants
a pillow for my head
apple juice in a can

on the floor eating color
off the walls
all of this is real

I can show you

here my voice
is my voice


to think of you as children or
trying on clothes
middle school in the deep deep snow

me in dressing room feeding
what would you have done with two of us

as ten year olds trying to learn geometry
or twenty in front of you at the grocery store
as you cried out for babies to come so easy

I smelled what it smelled like
when you were pregnant

walked you around all night hospital hall
listing the top of his head was red his toes

when I asked you how it felt
to breastfeed you said
like shitting from the chest

your cells to render faces
permeable to love them let them
hang from you like ivy

on the porch
twin gone in my hands
the peach you picked


to write a letter
from being dead
to being

so I know what it is but can’t
come back

can I love that
can I love

myself singing

something god
in the mountain

CL Young is the author of two chapbooks, including What Is Revealed When I Reveal It to You (Dancing Girl Press, forthcoming 2018). Her poems have recently appeared in Ghost Proposal, Gramma, The Volta, Public Pool, and elsewhere. She lives in Colorado and is from Boise, Idaho.

This originally appeared on November 12, 2017