Your Cart

  • Title
  • Copies
  • Price

The Elephants

Five Poems

Peter Burghardt

We arrive in the early evening. What we’ve come to expect is more casual after time. Good behavior, a gradual cadence playing tag at dinner. It’s one of our most exciting things to do. When the night-birds come to peck bugs, we move to the patio and watch. If I wasn’t too private already, I’ve learned to rumor in the shade of my beer bottle. Not a problem, situational. I rise, I walk. Openness is a relaxation allowed by the natural dim. We lie in a hammock out by the beasts’ extreme melody. Tomorrow I’ll tour you the mounds. They’re actually just the town. Put on your wind for my cousins. Out here, we’re almost encouraged to exist, and they like to show that off. They even have a television built into their bathroom mirror.

I’m so dead, we used to say. The uncertainty of self and choice patched into vision through my struggle for sleep. Even in a city, night is quiet enough to descend into the flurry of one’s own rhythms. I am here by myself. The walls are old plaster. Tomorrow, hope for control will be tied to a remission of little mendacities. Our dog with its twisted bowels will not be a problem. It will pass or grow, and that is okay. Slow it down. A prophesy of left-turns is still a promise of future, and that’s good enough for now.

Day rises over a silver C melody saxophone. Among these early hours, there is an optimism for rain, but a preparation for HVAC. I skim my brain over coffee’s requisite molecular transfer. My commute is a different type of motion, but I absorb it too. On the way, I check my phone for text, a video, and my work just to be prepared. The day blooms slow or quick. There’s no more water cooler, dispatched for its expense, but conversations of money, homeless folk, persist. In the brashness of these loci, a justification of family doesn’t always jive with my basic humanist. Even murderers usually think they’re doing the right thing.

I exercise Echo past the neighbors’ pastel stucco and am similarly peeled back by the sun. My East Bay outdoors are a throughway between differently shaped tables. I like it here, and that can make me feel stupid. That I too have become a sitter whose circulatory keeps me moving, even recovering, when necessary. Extending a palm to be read, I discover what will come isn’t what I predicted, but could be worse. A hopeful possession by phantom self. Like the time I encountered a bear rummaging trash along a country street and realized I shouldn’t take its picture.

Why is it some memories rise, while others lilt unrecognizably into the seasoning of our framework? I enter my familiar places and am surprised at how my touch is reencountered. Try not to think about it. Today the sky is blue as ever it was when I was light with the hollow bones of boyhood. Like when our family field burned a few years ago. It grows back.

Peter Burghardt lives in Oakland, California, where he co-publishes speCt! books, and edits OAR, a print journal of poetry and prose. His recent work has appeared in such publications as The Offending Adam, Tammy, The Laurel Review, and White Stag. His chapbook, Cosmic American Music, is out on Old Gold.

This originally appeared on August 27, 2017