from Agnes the Elephant
I'm on a small white boat with three wounded chickens. At times, they are finally still and quiet, as if they had died, but then they again begin squawking and shaking. One of them is missing a wing and the back half of her body. Another one looks as if it is inside out—its head just hangs there, its eyes blinking. When I try to kill them with an ax, I cut the boat in half. I cut my legs in half. I cut my head in half. I cut my entire body in half. I cut the sea in half. I cut the mountains in half, and the sky, the clouds, the airplanes, and all the people in the airplanes, all in half. I cut the world in half. I am adopted by a family that lives on a farm and one day my new father asks me to kill the chickens for dinner. He puts the ax in my one hand. I do not remember exactly half of everything. But he should have not put an ax in the one hand of a boy exactly like me.
When people want to ride elephants in war, they will only ride male elephants. Female elephants are not ridden in war. This is because male elephants are more aggressive, and female elephants will run away from male elephants. If you are riding on a thing that runs away from other things, you will never be able to kill anything.
I was riding Agnes the Elephant on an airplane. I was riding Agnes, and Agnes was riding the airplane. It was the kind of airplane you jump out of, with a parachute. And before we knew it, we were in the air, me, Agnes the Elephant, the red parachute above us like a torn flower, the white belly of the plane above that, another kind of elephant in the sky, and a naked woman on a horse. I want to throw more dinner parties. That was one of my thoughts.
Three policemen climb over a fence. I am dead. I am on the ground. I am pretty in a white dress. We live between getting up when someone is at the door, and not getting up when someone is at the door. A bed of sleepy women move like cats. On the other side of the fog, you are naked in a vat. You are a memory of mine being erased. So this is my death, not yours. Someone is at the door.
I will be the murderer
of my own murderer
and the murderer
of the murderer
of my own murderer.
I was in the desert at a person's backyard party when I heard a pack of coyotes tearing apart a herd of cats on the other side of the wall. It sounded like children laughing hysterically at first. What could they be laughing at like that? The person said it was coyotes killing cats. It's such an awful sound said the person. Then the person took a drink of wine. We can do so much damage, and so quickly, with just our hands. I looked at my hands while the cats were ripping. They looked like the hands of a vengeful king. How long would it take before I was drinking the person's blood, swimming in it, dying in a pool of it? How is your wine? I said. It's good said the person. How is your wine? said the person. Mine's good too I said, even though the person and I were drinking the same wine.
I am a boy. I am playing with a toy boat in the dirt. You can't see me from the tree. The tree is full of leaves and you can't see into it or out of it. You are bleeding onto my cowboy hat. It makes a pool. I put the toy boat in the pool in the hat and make a sound like a mother who can't find her child, who has run into the woods, and the woods go forever.
how to fall
in the woods
In the desert, Agnes the Elephant and I are wearing hats. There is a long line of people behind us not wearing hats. The unforgiving sun is sitting on their faces and necks. The first person in the line asks me where we're going. We're going into the middle of the dark I said. Where are you going? He looks confused. He looks like he is completely made of salt. We were following you he said. Then you too are going into the middle of the dark I said. He didn't seem to want to go into the middle of the dark, and he didn't seem to want to tell the second person in line where we were all going. But, of course, the second person in line asked. He told the second person the truth, that we were all going into the middle of the dark, and that person told the third person, and so on, until the last person in line was told something far different, some distorted version of the truth. But that version is just as much the truth as anything else. Where we're going, it is dark. And we'll be in the middle of it. Dear last person, if you believe that, turn around and see what happens.
Zachary Schomburg is the author of four books of poems including the forthcoming The Book of Joshua (Black Ocean). He co-does Octopus Books and the Bad Blood Reading Series from where he lives in Portland, Or.