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The Elephants

Four Poems

Sierra Golden


Saturday night! And the sun
sets gold light through
the hotel’s French doors
dripped over by wisteria.
We’re all tuxedoes and
taffeta and silk and
one of us in a feather
bustle, porcelain fair,
swirls loose Rapunzel
curls. The others,
cinnamon skinned and
smelling of jasmine, dressed
in backless, strapless,
sensual grace, balanced
on stilettos thin as
needles, wrap and unwrap
themselves in the arms
of slender men. And
you, the most extravagant
of them all—your back curved
like a bell, stunted hands slapping
your chest with every
step along the dance floor,
club footed, head cocked
forever at an angle most people only
experience momentarily, as pain—
what are you to think
of us, cocooned in our beauty?
I’m watching. Your mother leads you
across the long lustrous room to sit
for the night. Should I get on
with dancing then? Lipstick and
primping and clipped camellias
tucked in chignon curls under
the moon strolling home?
Somewhere deep in my mind
you will shine
forever like the angel of death or
like the worm eating
into the rotted heart
of a whale.

Weather Report

Sometimes the mist moves
through like a breath. Colors me
foggy. Fills me like a sigh.

Sometimes the mist moves
like breath. Colors me foggy
like a sigh. Sometimes mist

like breath colors me.
Sometimes: Mist. Sigh. Mist.
Sometimes: Sigh. Sigh. Sigh.

The Rockfish

Supannee House of Thai, San Diego, CA

What can I make of this one, cooked whole,
presented upright on a platter, as if swimming
still, from kitchen to table, wreathed in slivered
peppers and zucchini, sweet peas and pineapple.

I’ve killed a hundred with barbed hooks, stars
strung on a line fine as a spider’s, mottled bodies
slick and brilliant plowing up from the dark, bloating,
and breaking the surface. I slung each from the sea

swim bladder ballooned, stomach protruding
from mouth, black eyes bulging. Their poisonous
spines. Their bony flesh. Their hinged lips. Their anuses
dripping excrement. What can I make of this?

Only bones remain. Someone not long ago ripped him
from deepwater, from the only dark he could bear.

Taken by the Enemy

It’s him again, at the taco truck.
Mister of the open bottle, who sipped
gin from the tool bunk and galley bins.
Protean master of sin and repent.

Deckhand of good report but dubious
in small towns where women scout him
or are scouted by him

and no amount of preaching keeps him
from the pounding of bodies, hips
like harbors to be taken by the enemy.

Once I saved his gravy with two tablespoons
of flour, powder-omen of love or luck
or whatever the morning after we fucked,
my body an ocean he poached.

What could I possibly say to him now?
Not: I’ve heard stories about the woman
you actually loved—a robin of sorts.

Not: You thought you could stop for her,
blush-breasted and singing and light
as a cigarette.
Definitely not:

She was the one known for lacemaking
and fishing the coast in a gale of men
but who chose to thread through your heart
as if with a needle.

She left—I know—the night he swam through a river
of liquor and ended halfway to the far shore
where no voices can enter. And so I go on
eating and not speaking. Not even a whisper.

Sierra Golden received her MFA in poetry from North Carolina State University. Winner of the Rane Arroyo Chapbook Prize, Golden's work appears in literary journals such as Prairie Schooner, Permafrost, and Ploughshares. She has also been awarded residencies by Hedgebrook, the Island Institute, and the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology. Although she calls Washington State home, Golden has spent many summers in Alaska, working as a commercial fisherman. She was a 2015-2016 Made at Hugo House Fellow and now works in communications at Casa Latina, a nonprofit organization empowering Latino immigrants through employment, education, and community organizing.

This originally appeared on June 22, 2017