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Elephants


ISSUE:  Winter 1995

At the deserted assembly plant,
on the siding that once led
to dealerships in Chicago, they wait
in boxcars painted for Barnum and Bailey.
By the electric fence, long unplugged,
we shift tired kids, wondering,
on the last warm night of a murderous summer,
why we’ve kept them out
in a crowd of lapsed jugglers
and laid-off welders, all
hungry for the indestructible elephants.

After the slow carting of cats,
the inexorable creeping of trains,
a door cries, sliding open.
Trunks sniff at ramps
and a head pushes into the yellow light
of the empty car lot.
Down the ramps they avalanche,
trumpeting and quavering, until circled by handlers.
They butt heads, link trunk to tail,
and move.

Outside the fence, kids flying past,
we strain to match their pace.
When they rumble onto the brick and asphalt
of Michigan Avenue lit violet at midnight,
the fastest kids stop just
an arm’s length from massive legs.
One’s trunk rips a weed from a curbstone
and stuffs it down, not slowing
as, past the bullet-proof donut shop
and roofless warehouse,
we chase our sudden parade.

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