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The Elephants

Selections from 'Instead of Dying'

Lauren Haldeman

They got out of the harbor just in time, but they couldn’t get out of their minds

Teachers pinning certificates of participation on the gravestones

When your head hurts, your head falls asleep

May all beings be free of suffering
including me, including me

* * *

My skin smells like the sun
after I’ve been in the sun

That rainbow spelled seven days, the one that was floating

I love you for my life, for the day and night

I love you for my life

* * *

I’m going to wear a cough today

The cough will be printed on my shirt

I’m going to feel some old gravity today

I’m going to tell on myself

Maybe we need a new lamp since this lamp’s ripples are standing up strange

Maybe those prisms are our wishes that we made when we came back from our moonwalk

Maybe we can catch water with a square & then the water can cool down and become fish

Maybe we can carry the water in our ears as we walk

* * *

How about when I was nine I married a panda?

How about my first word was mine?

How about we give these stones a bath in hot soil?

How about I turn into an electromagnet?

How about you

How about you

How about you listen to me as proof of me?

* * *

I had a dream last night that my body spoke to me!
But all it said was “drink more water”

Black holes where the milk valley dies

The floor is stuck — it needs to let the rainbow in

Before the thinking is the knowing
The thinking is added to the knowing

* * *

Waiting is the way the cake and candles arrive

Time is an illusion, but only an adult writes that down

I want a heart cake for my birthday & I want to eat it in the basement with my friends so we can watch the cat meow

With this world, we are enchanted

The spell of the world pouring down

* * *

What does the night taste like?
It tastes like candy hearts

Hello, I’m Princess Twilight:
the princess of doctor’s appointments

Today at recess, the wind sang a boring song,
a really boring song

Only kids who have my name can see what I see

* * *

That marching band was so busy

This grape is waiting for its turn in my mouth

That ‘M’ has so many points

This chicken belongs to a sports team

That light can summon clouds inside of it

This music sounds like good napping music

That clock is moving through birds

This is a song, not a choice

* * *

One time I was eating my lunch. (silence)
And what?
Is that the whole story?
Yes … That is the only story I have.


What's that face?
It's a mad face of no scissors.


There's a show about the sun and the moon.
Oh really? What's that show called?
It's called Space.


I love you.
Me neither.


What's that?
That's a place of worship.
Oh. Is that where we go to make our wish?


What are you writing about, the kid asks.
You. I’m writing about you, I say.

Lauren Haldeman is the author of Instead of Dying (awarded the 2017 Colorado Prize for Poetry, Center for Literary Publishing, by Susan Howe), Calenday (Rescue Press, 2014) and the chapbook The Eccentricity is Zero (Digraph Press, 2014). A comic book artist and poet, she has been a recipient of the Sustainable Arts Foundation Award and fellowships from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. You can find her online at

This originally appeared on October 15, 2017