On the Death of a Circus Elephant Electrocuted in the Initial Y
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Because the weather of old film is Northerly
You find me as if looking through a window
Flawed in January. How ardent your breath,
Pent, like the gray mares of the bareback queen,
Restless in their freight-car shunted
To the margins of a year early last
Century, which opened with this minute
Of scandal and camphor, acid and shadow
Embezzled from my death. I’m little now.
The moon is old, the moon is a bald clown
Peddling arthritic routines; there are nights
When it is not too late, and something
Original remains, still powerful enough
To hurt you. Mumbai, Naples, Chicago,
Your wan vitreous midnights shut like lids
On so many incubators in torched pavilions
Of the Midway. Between the kootch show
And a numerate horse, plugged-in coffers
Performed before crowds, cow-eyed, as if
They witnessed reliquaries of blood liquefying.
I balanced the world on my back, violent
With chance and you called me Topsy; am I
Only that slave to you, or else victim?
I was uncontaminate, unprofane as those
Aisles of babies saved in their paradisal heat.
No sound attends my fall. I fall and I keep
Falling, a toy Ophelia. I repeat,
What failure or end of yours am I the dream of?
Before the electrodes’ skinny crown,
Before the smoke anyone, alone,
(I repeat) together, can watch boil
From my feet, there were your catarrhs, your
Furtive, strangled unwrappings, vagrant lusts
And irritations, everything (I repeat) my entrances
Converted into one clean current of feeling:
I was always that spark and apocalyptic.
“On the Death of a Circus Elephant Electrocuted in the Initial Y” first appeared in The Manchester Review (UK), Fall 2009.