The Elephants Only I Can See Published February 2022, TMP Magazine CNF lyrical prose/poetry
I pay attention to the darkness in my breathing by focusing on the elephants only I can see.
When I say “pay,” I mean full cash payment up front, like the time my husband just wanted to cut up an avocado for lunch, and instead drilled a serrated knife into the base of his index finger. He left his payment on the kitchen floor and the countertop. He even sacrificed some nerves.
When I say “attention,” I mean the scrape of the catheter that was threaded up my groin on a mission to burn misbehaving cardiac cells. I mean the tone of my unsedated voice ricocheting around the electrophysiology lab, bouncing off the computer screens, it burns. What I really meant was you’re burning me, so, when I say “attention,” you know, I mean, the wave of fentanyl that came way too late.
When I say “darkness,” I mean the ledge outside of Ansel’s Cave, where at night I hear packs of coyotes dispatching their prey by ripping into it on the Sharon conglomerate. Their echoing howls run slick, right down through the rocks, right down through the mossy pebbles, right down to the roots of the ginormous tree that everyone just knew was going to fall, that everyone felt could not withstand one more Lake Erie blow. That thing’s gonna have to come down, everyone said, orit’ll be in the way of everything when it falls. They said falls, but I know they meant fails. That’s what everyone means when they talk about things in imminent danger of falling.
When I say “breathing,” I mean the release of desperate puffs of regret, in that tone of voice someone uses when they’re about to break me apart and they know it, but they do it anyway. I mean the mocking scream of adrenaline oozing towards my extremities digging deep into my limbic system, prying me out of the bed, begging me to do something,fight or flee, but don’t just lie there and sweat and gasp.
When I say “focus,” I mean that day I was walking up Pioneer Bridle Trail and I saw an old woman on the trail with her blind dog and she said to her little dog, don’t call me an old woman. As I passed by, she said, I can walk to the moon and back because I still have great legs. I nodded, while she hunkered over the little blind dog, leading him by his heart, in teeny looping circles all around the trail.
When I say “elephants,” I mean that through my greyish astigmatism, through my old farsightedness, through the back glow of the villages of Burton and Middlefield to the northeast, our trees break in such interesting ways, looking like a failed sympathetic nervous system or elephants. That matriarch right there, stands guard over me, her vast back flank leading the way, the rest of her herd following along behind her, around the perimeter of the distant easement.
When I say, “only,” I mean that the matriarch will pin all of my poachers, with the precision of a gladiator, one tremendous knee crushing their backs, one tusk, one jab, one last, deep thrust for grievances past. When I say “see,” I mean the resentment in the chambers of my heart, where I shove blood artlessly between grief and tornados, like the one that uprooted the biggest, strongest tree in our woods, when it was just minding its own damn business.