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The Elephants

Six Poems

Steve Barbaro



amassing expressions of sundry strangers via 2
retinas mightn’t you kinda find yourself cultivating
a sort of super-categorical semblance, something not
all that unlike that 1 look the afternoon does give off in be-
coming dusk, & then ponder what 1 eye so good at processing
not-itself does when said 1 same eye’s forced to see itself as, like,
unalike from all it sees, but also see itself as just any 1 eye, stuck, if
still differentiating parts from parts, hands, tablets, others’ eyes & arms,
etc, & esp. when 1 sound of several mouse clicks is pushing itself through
2 or 3 nostrils & or even into a more social orifice etc & then 4 mice (really
real mice) appear & their bodies are not much larger than those substances
we pillfully in-bunch just to keep triply awake amidst 1/2 or even 3/4 slumber


then dusk……then discs……trucks……or whatever the hell else crops
up whenever wherever, yet the next day you’re in luck to find a stranger
& 1 who knows how to scatter a mouse (or mouses) from those places
you go to register the surplus faces of strangers in your lone cranium,
could be even your own home, who knows, but though the rodents
do dematerialize, you have long long since rushed disgusted out-
doors where your sight right quick sprawls to show 1 person’s face’s
back become another’s person’s face’s front etc etc, but what’s so
fucked is that this happens to folks reading books atop 7 or
8 screened devices wherein yr own mien ends up stock-
piled merely for expressing the very sort of disgust 8
or 7 phone-wielders feel must be clicked pics of


1 lone eye, bleary, clogs up the margins of your screen,
the margins, the inners, the widths the depths lengths,
so this 1 screen consists wholly of sight-surfeiting sight,
now cornea-dense, now retinal, now all blinky at the tips,
then the screen’s face shifts to show pupil, the lashes, a lens,
1 lens-within-lens where you might lose your gaze like you lose, uh,
days, or nights, weeks, etc, yet you don’t feel much loss, or much
rupture when the eye gives way, which is to say, when you’re no
longer seeing eye but air or sky, or peaks, I mean 1 vast chunk of space
itself so immense as to make 1 face frolicking in its fatty fits of crag seem
empty? Well, not empty, no, so much as not-entailing-as-much-as-maybe-
it-seems, so seamed as is the surrounding landscape with so much else be-
sides the 1 eye, or the 1 face, yet when the latter & its twin flow forth to meet
their own twin—the twin, that is, of the 1 whose eye was comprising the very
entirety of the screen—the camera shows their prickly-pear-cactus-backed
embrace give way to a fit of violence pretty much beyond understanding… see, 1
twin’s attacking his twin, & abruptly, ruthlessly, I mean knuckles are bloodying
cheeks, & feet kick spine, elbows crack the mind, such casual monstrosity, & then
the attacker’s leaving? Leaving his twin for dead? Near crags? Edible cacti? I mean,
for all you know you just saw 1 twin die, having arrived at the screen by, what,
sheerforce of routine? If not of culture, custom, whatever, cause
you go for these images each day, yeah, you go, you, & habitually, each slick
little episode appearing so cleanly, serially, & showing 1 face who’d face away
a face, OK, if not face away a face-snagging face, a face-snagging-face facing face

What A Perky Little Edifice


Propriety! It talks!
See, one one
knows to have heard
tell of the gods
is telling a god
the gods don’t even

exist & also owning
the telling like
a snake owns
its slither… Owns
it thither & thither…
But snakes are

innumerable! Each
slides toward an im-
mobility, all the more
worth pursuing for

being inevitable… You are not,
as you claim, a god, you watch

your friend snap, snortily, from
where you sleep above
the sprawl, & now
please proceed forth…
But when your friend buzzes
off you just invite your better
friend, the god, up—


But why on earth would a god bother coming to your abode? And which god, to be specific, would make such a jaunt?

Ah, but asking such questions is a bit like asking the friend who just told the god in town that the gods don’t even exist to come over and hang out with that selfsame god, for you yourself are that god’s confidante-cum-buddy. A god knows you, indeed, and intimately. Just think of the privilege of it all, and the propriety. I mean you are a kind of chosen one—a chosen non-deity!

And when the god comes to earth, the god is staying at your place, naturally—you have not seen your god-buddy even once in the new century. The friendship with your deity-denying friend, conversely, is more like the product of a spatial proximity that somehow managed to evolve into a weirdly enduring formality.

Not that a friendship with a god, as it weirdly turns out, is necessarily worth envying. And the latter is particularly the case when your god-friend is going on and on (and on) about why he had to make the trek to earth—I mean, the information is so soul-sappingly boring that there’s no way you yourself can, in good conscience, share said details with your own species…


But don’t tell your ‘real’
friends you’re
friends with gods in the

first place cause
the friend with a friend
friends with gods

but himself without god-
mates is a head-


So it comes to transpire that you end up taking your god-friend to the riverboat. Yeah, you know—the casino filled with poor folks and old folks that, per some or other human regulation, moves up and down the water only a few feet per day. And your god-friend seems to like it enough, but what he marvels at particularly is the way that, in approaching the place by car, the light-dense apparition of the riverboat’s face suddenly appears amidst the sprawl-scape.

“What a perky little edifice,” the god remarks, noticingly.

Yet when you are soon strolling with the unassuming-looking god through the rows of slots and tables, the god spies, from afar, the immense fountain that stands in the middle of the riverboat’s inner landscape.

“What a perky little edifice,” the god remarks, noticingly.

And with a rapidity rather typical of a divinity, your companion forces you to approach the water’s systematized fumbling. But while he is leaning over the edge of the fountain in order to study the varying presidential-faced coinage lining its inner base, the god is accidentally bumped face-first into the shallows by a roustabout crowd of passerby…


See, the god who
needs you needs
your need not

your need’s fleshy
source, its density—
but godly needs them-

selves are only em-
bodied in the way
a god’s presence

is only ever the god’s
absence of right
now not wanting or

needing to flee, flee—


So you pluck the god from out of the fountain and you two manage to meander out onto the street. Outdoors, the god is more silent and befuddled than angry-seeming. For some time, each of your friend’s gestures transpire from within a space ruled by a strange sort of juvenility. And for the next couple of days, you try to do everything to cheer up the deity.

You take the god to a ballgame, for instance, and to a concert, to the lake beach. Some of your friends you really don’t even hang out with anymore are meeting at a restaurant where there is served snifters of distilled apricots, as well as baskets of fried smelt and hush puppies. You transport the god to this establishment, naturally, but after the god introduces himself very ostentatiously as “your friend’s friend,” the god won’t respond or even take the initiative to speak.

A few days later, the god is looming obligatorily inside of your apartment, neither willing nor able to leave. Your divinity-friend simply curls himself into a ball on the carpet abetting the table atop which looms your flat screen. And how do you process the brute fact of the flat screen not ever even being turned on?

On one occasion, when you come home from work to see the god predictably sprawled out, you yourself then simply crawl into bed, so that the bacteria of your work attire is soon running amok amidst your sheets and comforter. Surely, it’s only a matter of time before you have to bury the god, no? And when you do duly bury the god, you bury the god in your yard next to where you buried your dog. You can’t remember exactly where you buried the dog, so maybe the god is now laid to rest atop the very bed of the long-dead dog’s bones?

When digging, you don’t want to know for sure if the god’s remains are sitting atop the dog, so you don’t look. But you do at least invite your friend who’s sure the gods don’t exist to the internment—that guy is sure to accept any invitation.


The contraction of distance—a telescoping,
lived in—coerces no
solitude but
rather an inhabitable,
purely spatial
here-ness, but still there
can, in each beached
be sleep: human;
steady; yet of a dreaminess,
sprawling. This can be. The

retraction of abridgement,
meantime, I wonder—would it mean
a renaissance of vastness?
The triumph of linkages
seems to mean objects
are more assumed

than intuited. Our said-to-
be neutralized
volcano, too—
watch me watch it
no longer spew the plumpest,
healthiest smoke
bunches ever,
as ever, through which
haze once flowed
centuries of the keenest
observation wherein my forefathers

passed one after another, elsewhere,
not here, but it is said I then
arrived with the hydrofoils,
and with the traffic,
and with the clogging of sightlines
and the seeds of inertia and the volcano
when it started to seem, beyond
all of those motion
machines, as detached
as the senses upon their

Letter from My Silent Self to My Speaking Self

Which parts of you—you—in-
sisting you in-
doors hold slowness like dust

pools, or are
closing still & on-
goingly like

beginnings? I mean where
was (is…) your gone-
ness, those originary

smidges of each
piece of face
fleshed-out & now crumb-

flecked, noise-posed, but all
union when once all-
latent, all being (being

you) being not-
movement—some presences

are blaring. The
face your squash
soup gets

spooned into tells me
little, or
just a tad about

activity—tells me
accident, not
collision so

much as melding, & past well
past any one
event, formative, its




ward from spooling
the gangliest
will, I make of a hushed bull-
realm one vast
frame for
the song of
one self-
expelled: two,
one, I sing, yeah,
yup, or:



mouth is depth-

less crev-


yup, I
sing as
such, myself not
being sung & my
theme always
nah, nah,


not only does each sound have a form,
some being ripply, and some being torn,

some being burbly and some coned, but the problem
is you really couldn’t care less about this or any

coniferous forest—I mean you wouldn’t
travel along, you chose such, you said no, you said fuck—you

said you & you said we, you said cant & you said must—but
just know that within the midst of an immobility—

& not mine so much as something to which my strayed
presence and attention are symptoms, even warnings—

I, me, yes, I happen upon a stately still bull-
finch, a being seeming somehow brash in its silence,

I just stumble upon it, really, but in the meat of that very encounter
a simultaneous shrillness commences and is plucked

as if elementally, and that same diffuse hum
congeals as if logically, Platonically, pure

space pervaded by the plain
diffusion of brain, yeah, yup,

whatever, OK, and not only does that sound of machinery hit
me like your teeth, and not only does that new sound expand

like even the thought of X leading into Y
leading into Z, but the absence of that same shrillness is as

abrupt as neon green, and the length of that absence far surpasses any
distance into which I might ever

scatter um, well, me—





lose still-


is that dumb?
I mean would
that a circle
—or an ellipse, a ball—
might be
formed from the stray
corners con-
by the un-
sung bulk of a bull-




lacks si-


Steve Barbaro ( has poems appearing in such venues as New American Writing, The Yale Review, The Common, The Literary Review, Web Conjunctions, Prelude, and DIAGRAM.

This originally appeared on December 20, 2017