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The Elephants

Meditations in Time of Civil War

Paul Legault

1. Ancestral Houses

There has to be an MTV crib
nestled in the Hills like a bunny
into its nest where life keeps on
making it rain, spilling blow underwater
just to prove a point. Neptune’s like: Y’all
this is how we roll in the middle of it—
space cowboys lost in international travel,
separate from no lie but the truth.

Dream a little; don’t jump from the boat.
That’s the good advice that didn’t take.
Hart Crane, you fishy bitch, come to me
comfortably, like a man inside of an image
of gold fruit, sequin pyramids, glass storms,
ancestrally, stern as a boss in a merger.
What were your grandparents like,
and who did your great-grandparents do—

powerful as ghosts when you don’t think of them?
We all have to take better care of the dead world
like in The Vampire Diaries how Bonnie does that.
I never really liked what they told you to do
just the way sometimes they said it beautifully.
Prune the seaweed in your vodka pool
so we can serve hand-rolls on the piazza
off my freshly cleaned body like in one

of those places where they reenact the past
as portrayed by poorly payed actors, in this case
to depict what happened in the early 21st century
when capitalism is entirely belated.
I guess people have been eating food
off of each other’s bodies since the world
existed with people in it. Forever
is such a fun thing to keep trying to describe.

I’d like to do it that way: forever.
Talk dirty to me. Lick the mic.
This is a judgement free zone.
Hey girlfriend, what is the fuck up?
Still-life, spill a little
bit of the wine. Shift your jewelry

next to mine because we’re going
to realize what we’re seeing stood still
like a planet that you never heard of
that just stopped like now like how
it ain’t even a thing. Fag is as fag does.
Whose job is it to mine the disorder
if not us poetcetera? Here’s the thing
that ain’t. What if how pretty buildings are

makes you sad? They say go to the woods
or else just be more woodsy in the capitol.
Pine in my direction in the pines.
Construct a feminine mystique like Gaia,
like you could really fuck me up
if you wanted to. Tornadoes and things
like drought or too much sunlight are
nature’s more charming powers of destruction.

2. My House

The Sun’s going to have an apocalypse first.
I’m comforted to know that one person knows
everything about it. I forget what her name is.
I looked up The Sun too long on wikipedia.
It does have a twitter account @TheSun.
I couldn’t think of anything to say to it.
How is there anything so almost perfectly
spherical and consisting of hot plasma
interwoven with magnetic fields that gets
everywhere, that says everywhere:

you are my people? It is their symbol
of life. Ours too. I’ve never been to the tundra,
but I hear some people even like it there.
The Sun told me that. Also,
Kormavibhaga, the tortoise that is the world,
is divided into nine lunar mansions—
all of which are for rent.
They say there’s this possibility in asking.
I think I was born in the wrong part. How do
I say that in the form of a question?

This is my house. Respect that.
Homer’s home run goes:
Run home, Odysseus,
or wander like a pirate turned pilot
turned back or vice versa.
What else is there to say:
all art seems monument to something
sweeter than life that exists in it separate
from the body, blah, blah, blah—
except by saying that this isn’t?

3. My Table

I have two feelings and a bust
of my own head. You touch it,
and somehow I get the sliver.
Nonsense lies somewhere under
the table where I placed my tail
like a weapon I plan to regenerate later.
I’m listening harder than usual.
It’s like summer school but sexier.
Some asshole thinks he’s Picasso again.
Some love is modern, some’s post-that.
Up on the roof, The Drifters keep drifting—
up, probably, and into the sky.
Take good care of my baby.
Blue never looked good on her.
It wasn’t her color.
She didn’t own it yet.
She could still listen to the blues and think they sound pretty
like a weekend. I’ve got one of those.
Let’s fill it with cash.
Your dragon ain’t my dragon,
but I’m gonna ride it.
You’re rarer than a heart
before it’s been cooked.
Like some diamonds lost
when we went jet-skiing,
you’re naked as the sea in the sea.
I took pictures of your butt with my phone.
I should probably delete them
which makes me not want to.
It looks good in the window.
I think I’m gonna buy that.
Juno’s peacock screamed.

4. My Descendants

I get my legs from my daddy
and my heart from the lady
he wed. It’s feminine but even
like a knife in the garter.
Astronaut, I’m your Houston.
I say space-time’s a language
we read until we’re dead.
But what I really mean is fuck that.

Take all night,
half past five, drive it right down
like an owl through a sandstorm
headed west to some California.
There’s this feeling getting scarcer
than a fragrance the wind’s gotten to,
milling on the plains, arms up, lights out—
I can’t help but feel a little Don Quixote.

What’s that line?
Life’s the play we play
like for real for real
or it’s for keeps
that we did it.
Which simile lasts longer?
I smell like ice in June.
I look like a mirror in the picture.

5. The Road at My Door

If Homer had a watch, he couldn’t look at it.
Homer’s watch is a sun dial that conducts heat.
Homer’s watch is his blind face.
Homer is like this clock with a body
or else just the idea of a person we made.

They say Homer won his blind audition
when they tested him behind the veil
so that he really could just be anyone.
This is the voice.
This is the voice of the war

come to tell you to come to war
with a smile and a T-shirt gun.
When we made potato cannons
in the backwoods of Tennessee,
the internet told us both how and why not to.

6. The Stare’s Nest by My Window

I remember two kids in Toronto
went into the sewers in the early 90s
looking to meet up with the Teenage
Mutant Ninja Turtles and maybe did that
but didn’t come back. Who would

either way? Some dreams you keep.
Others keep you. Like a book can
do that, even if it’s on the internet
and only referenced as something
that influenced the next gen like a hand

influences its surroundings, touchingly
via gesture. There are smaller things
in everything until there aren’t.
Once you go into them
you’re like there forever

or until someone finds you.
At least ten things rise from the spring in spring.
Water mostly. Whatever, water,
I’m going to drink you if you don’t tell me
where you go or what will come of you.

7. I See Phantoms of Hatred and of the Heart’s Fullness and of the Coming Emptiness

Ever since I quit smoking, I feel like I haven’t.
I thought about accidentally stopping traffic
briefly, to tell everyone how hard it is
which is an embarrassing feeling
like how being stupid is hard,
though you get the benefit of not always noticing
that you caused this thing that you want
more than a clock wants the minutes

to be a signal that evaporates like—
exactly what I should stop thinking about.
Smoke drifts up to the mirror and looks
older or pretty or alarming or truthful
or pitiable or pliant or whispery, like it’s
whispering some idea put just under
the physical world of tasks we separate from
as to perform an escape. A lesson in aging

gracefully is not to be found here. We shook
like a wet animal a lot. Our prophets said
it was them who made us. Mayakovsky,
put your good leg down on one side and
your bad one on another. Mostly, I want to ride
like a Russian straddling a Russian cloud.
Shh, what was he saying inside of all this time?
Be faithful to your most legible insanity?

Well, now you’ve gone and done it again.
M.’s dead, and he left his pants behind
on that cloud. Yes, the one that looks like you
if you were a person and not the second-person,
if you couldn’t be used in a sentence.
In this human system that composes me
like a drunk Beethoven, I can be your mounty.
Red suit, buckles up, let me guard you

from this world’s lack of chivalry by filling it
with chivalrous actions, if you don’t mind.
When we mindmeld it reminds me of the world,
also of a self-sustaining biodome of us.
Buckminster Fuller was my favorite human wizard.
In the future, there will be the future
and then that again. The past and I can’t control
our having been a witness to this fact.

Paul Legault is the author of The Madeleine Poems, The Other Poems, The Emily Dickinson Reader, and Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror 2. His writing has appeared in Art in America, The Third Rail, VICE, and The New Museum’s Surround Audience anthology. Paul was born in Canada.

This originally appeared on September 17, 2017