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The Elephants

Twelve Poems

Noah Eli Gordon

Words without Music

What if the tiny island
You’d been living on
All of your life
Had a beach
You’d never
Until now
And what if that
Beach ended not
In the terrible ocean
All around you
But was itself
Simply facing
Another tiny island
On which there lived
A total stranger
To the idea of beaches
Hundreds of strangers
Millions of them
Each of whom
In walking daily
The perimeter
Of your little
Bit of limited paradise
Thought of those
Castles you’d so
Diligently busied
Yourself in crafting
As nothing more
Than the inherent shape
Of the sand
Struck again and again
By the camaraderie
Of oceans

Cyber Attack

The clouds continue
To look like themselves

Someone’s glued a quarter
To the bathroom floor

That my four-year-old
Now tries to pry free

That’s fake money dad
She says disheartened

It’s dark outside as we leave
The art gallery together

This is called a night walk
She tells me

I can’t see them but I’m sure
There are still clouds in the sky

And you you can’t see them either

Green Wave

Everyone rushes toward the fire
Which is the first
Of modernity’s problems

Not to see the crowd
When you’re standing in it

It’s not the red light
Wants to be green but the yellow
Always the yellow

Green sun
Green moon

The greediest color the imagination
With a continual freedom
Which is also rushing toward the fire

Two Books

She spends a decade
Perfecting the novel
In which she’s captured
The contemporary
Sense of alienation
Shared by so many
A sense
That drove her
To writing
In the first place
And one that
Upon the novel’s success
With the attendant fanfare
And doors
Now swinging open
Has been assuaged
Leaving behind
A new sort of longing
That of nostalgia
For the old sort
The exact feeling
Were I
A novelist
I’d lean upon
Until falling
Into the first chapter
Of my own book

A Disposable Lighter

The camera eats the child
You think you’re looking at
And spits out the carcass
Of what is either a lamb
Or a few chalk marks
That for all you know are
In someone else’s familiar language
It’s on its last leg
This lighter
The images won’t coalesce
And that is why they are images

On The Difference between Morals and Ethics

When composing
She hums
The melody
Words come later
He uses nonsense ones
To stand for those
He’ll eventually select

Alaskan Journal

We were stuck in the southeast quadrant
Of paradise parsing legalese

The moon hung low like a papier-mâché diorama
Of an egg smashed against the night sky

There was among the heated tents a murmuring
That were it warmer outside would have felt like a handshake

As it was this one resembled the reluctant acceptance
Of an acquaintance’s insistence on demonstrating

His proficiency with what he called
Just the world’s greatest backrub

In other words although facing elsewhere
Our backs were clearly against the proverbial wall

Someone had scratched a list of useful adverbs
Into the earthenware display dish

This was rumored to have been done
With an arrowhead

Whose authenticity was quickly debunked
Planted as it was by the tourism department

Suddenly it seemed all the successful films
Were just a series of still images

Of people staring at their phones
When the kayaks grow weary

Could be an idiom that would catch on
How then would we turn it off

Two Lanes

I’ll pick
The slower one
Because I don’t want
The stress of having
To merge later on
But mostly I pick
The one
Where I pass
The most people
That kindness
Is more prevalent
That is
In others

Corporate Culture

That scorpion has no stinger
That snake walks on hind legs
Those cannons
Although fearsome
Are purely decorative
Currently without clothes
I’m putting something in my pocket
And if it’s true that I imagine
During any conversation
A grand audience observing
And speak with an eloquence
Otherwise uncalled for
Then it’s equally so
When I call out the caterers
For bringing so few cocktails


When dawn
Pulls its calendar
Free from shrink wrap
Dusk again attempts
To put on its hat
Unfortunately nailed
To the wall

Who is Louis Rothman?

Give me the death of distance
Over that of distant relations
Don’t give anyone a break
But give freely of the breaking
When in traffic you’re of traffic
The lights darken
They always do
The lights darken
And the people pressing these words
Against the other side of the page
Can’t tell if they’re holding
The right ones anymore
Louis loved Rachel
Before the invention of the automobile
When you’re in traffic
Frantic dull estrangement
You are traffic

How to Make a Poem

She lugs her strange creations
Across the living room floor

Asks me to guess
What each shape represents

They’re fluid
Built from sturdy cardboard

Which in the world of children’s
Things is not a stretch really

This is an exploder
This is a food chain

My guesses are all wrong
That’s why they are guesses

Noah Eli Gordon is an Associate Professor in the MFA Program at CU-Boulder. According to the author, "The poems featured here come from a series of over 100 composed in late 2016/early 2017 entirely on my iPhone in less than five minutes each. I wanted to see if an art dedicated to presence and immediacy might offer itself as a balm against the technology that serves otherwise to eradicate the art from both of these conditions."

This originally appeared on November 19, 2017