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The Elephants

10 Sections from Real Life: An Installation

Julie Carr

Some Well-known Statistics from the Year 2012

Workers at Wal-Mart (1.8 million): 8.58/hour
The CEO of Wal-Mart (1): 11,000/


36,000,000 dollars spent

every hour of
every day

at Walmart.

A Partial Abecedarian for the Revolution

After the heat rises, the body comes rapidly awake
“Because what frightens me most I cannot write about, I write almost nothing at all”
Born in the light, your mother’s hand on your arm
“But how do you write about trauma?”
Fellow key holders
Give more credence to a squirrel
Home at 2 asleep at 2
I have omitted the very thing that forces me to sit
In a hall with others as if tied to our chairs
Lines of our shoulders lifts of our chins
No. How do you write about the trauma still to come?
The sheets ripped from our beds
The soul says only “double me”: desire is a living tautology
We’ve written our fears across our foreheads and now
We must read them in our mirrors

Nothing that Resists

And so this morning all 300,000,000 of us, or those who look at things on screens (most), are gazing on the faces of five men, gray or balding, earners of at least 1⁄2 a million a year, each one of whom knew that one in their group was raping boys in showers and not one of whom said so. Also he forced them to suck him, and he masturbated on them. I, like you, allow no limits on my looking. To me such a limit would be a restriction of my freedom, which I value above all else as that which makes me a special person, special not only to myself and to those who know me, but special to the world. It’s not a complicated equation. I look at everything they give me to look at.


As into my freedom I inflict
the punishment of brute

No Land Song: July 20, 2012

Go to sleep my little baby. (“I have pockets!”)
Corn crop threatened by excessive drought (and we thought that was a decade away)

No we didn’t “think” that

Again Life

But let me turn you on to the cows, sold at record rates months ahead of schedule. Prairies are scorched dirt. Not even a cow can eat scorched dirt. Goodbye cows. The ranchers are “just sitting here crying.” Without water, the corn is glutted with nitrogen and becomes toxic. Without rain, irrigation ponds bloom algae. Cows’ milk runs dry and calves starve. “It’s hard. But it’s called life,” says Ms. Manning whose family’s been in the business of raising cattle to slaughter for 200 years.

The Risk Residing in the Individual

On the night after the day I cancel my abdominal CT Scan, I dream of a wooden cooking spoon breaking in two as I am using it to stir soup on the stove. I dream this twice. It is not exactly the same dream the second time, but it’s close. In both dreams, I am shocked to find the bowl of the spoon snapping off just as I’m lifting it out of the pot.


And when I wake I learn that my friend is sick with an aggressive form of breast cancer that “requires all they have in terms of treatment.”

    The broken wooden spoons now


Self-Appointed Body

Civilization is not rest
I love prose
The stagger makes a cruel humor
Symbolically innocuous
Since everyone is walking in circles
The things people do despite uncertainty and in the face of possible futility because of a moral demand or crisis includes
making a phone call in a lightning storm
Everything concerns the habitus and those who live there
So blow a generative swerve into remote tongues
Softly interlocking

Dynamic Instability

First we find out that the man is angry because of his desire to fuck. Then we discover that the candidate hates the collective. After that, Ohio discriminates actively and David says that despicable people die no faster than kind ones, but everyone’s gladder when they do.


My child asks:

Will you talk to me when you’re dead?


I have a surprise for you, said the magician in the black dress from her station by the well. What is it? I asked excitedly. Just wait for the mail, she answers, a little gleam in her eye and another on the tip of her cigarette.

A gleam too in the well water, reflecting the moon and stars.


And if we included the human condition here, and not just the pretty edge of existing that mostly involves tables and chairs, we’d be forced to include fools and assholes into our play –

None worse than the candidates themselves: posing in podium flash: Chicken Head, Flapping Your Wings, Getting Lighter and Duddy Whine.

Pressing the birthday girl inward a bit closer: you’ll never be four again! says her brother.
Yes I will because when I’m a really old woman I’ll go five, four, three, two, one! Then right back into mommy’s belly.


I was going for joy, but
rooms packed with kids packing pistols
cheered for guns and booed for peace
It was that direct, and I had to leave

Leaving meant going to the Capitol
where everything you did you did for real
An anxious “Mom” had some good decorating ideas
We almost slept on her daughter’s bed
But then, thank God, jumped into the ocean
where even without goggles we could swim into seaweed
just sliding it over with our hands
It was the ocean, fuck it, it was damaged, but we swam

Safety Net

“We don’t want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people into lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives” – said the candidate

The problem with real life is that it is bleak, until, like a wandering cloud, you look at the dirt. Yesterday My Historian stopped at my table. After we discussed the new gun rules he stood still with nothing left to say.

I was considering a sensation in my chest.

I had no further comments. On this topic I was hysterical.

Allowing a sob would do just what?
I was afraid to look at my hands.


“He is wisest who knows, like Socrates, that his wisdom is worth nothing at all.”

Julie Carr is the author of six books of poetry, most recently 100 Notes on Violence (Ahsahta, 2010), RAG (Omnidawn, 2014), and Think Tank (Solid Objects, 2015). She is also the author of Surface Tension: Ruptural Time and the Poetics of Desire in Late Victorian Poetry (Dalkey Archive, 2013), and the co-editor, with Jeffrey Robinson, of Active Romanticism (University of Alabama Press, 2015). A chapbook of prose, “The Silence that Fills the Future,” was recently released as a free pdf from Essay Press: Objects from a Borrowed Confession (prose) will be out from Ahsahta press in early 2017. Carr’s co-translation of Leslie Kaplan’s Excess-The Factory is due out from Commune Editions in 2018.

This originally appeared on January 5, 2017