Two Poems
Kevin Phan

A Radical Departure

Elephant chest deep in the green-
Gray swamp; sinking elephant

Escaping the charms of light.
You’re unpossessed by time &

Folding into the morass among roots
& rocks like an unkempt shed,

Like a vacant Shinto shrine,
a broken factory.

What was once your world
You give away—a simple donation—

Legs & marrow, skin & tusks,
Memory pulp & trunk.

Unfettered animal
Your patchy brown eyes are

Unflinching & full of
Information yet I fail

To understand. Is the universe
Listening? I watched & waited,

I waited & listed. I called for your
Body received underground—your

Spirit flown elsewhere—
To mount a slow-turning

Tornado of smoke &
Pulsing shine. I wanted

Glittering colors & to know.
Even only a red sash

Or something brightly humming
Across the lawn.

No cosmic response came.
No numinous signs.

Nowhere did dandelions
Unload white thunder over

This sheltered valley
Nor did orchid petals gloss the grass

Nor did the earth eclipse or
Shake in six ways.

Are you rooted in wisdom?
Why navigate

Through crust & mantle

Are you brought to perfection
In silence?

Is the body a changing
Poison, elephant?

How do I approach
& Say good-bye?

Clement the Pig Moves Backward through Time

From the reigning black beyond the straw-
lined shed I heard his boots tamp down
new snow. He came with frozen,
quartered apples in a bucket.

Rocking against steel-bar rows
with my snout-wedge, I saw wand-
beams thrown in majestic sway.
Some light blew against back walls.

Some pooled inside my big white skull.
I think (maybe) he heard my tap, tap, tap,
or saw my calligraphy snarled into
lacy winter prayers & felt.

But I don’t know (couldn’t say) why
I heard that click or how those rusty
panels unlatched & swung out wide,
holding pens emptying one by one.

How we sashayed out into the blue
ice to play in winter’s pastures!
I was a wonder-smeared pig shouldering
the night, snorting into a chewed

hole in rotting lumber because why not?
Why not announce my garbled notes
to you earth-red, earth-yellow woods?
Dirt gathers into yellow leaves, & leaves

float into branches & turn green. Light
shuttles back into the sun; rain clouds
return to waves. Rising from the pitted
banks, rising from the swamp-oak field,

rising from the rock-brushed creek
the woozy, uncrypt dead (wearing
a snagged place in the throat) mend
& sing. Snout-to-understory, I slash

past branches to hedge-centers
to locate truffle-blooms & crash
my skull against trees for apples,
sweetness raining at my hoofs.

(Summer, Spring, Winter, Fall …)
(Sunburn, bulb-bursts, ice-plains, orchards …)
Broken teeth grow back along my gums
as my thinning body throws a shadow

less & less. One day I’ll return
to mother’s womb, a fetus pressed into
a single cell, then a want disappearing
from my mother’s heart.

Kevin Phan’s work has been featured or is forthcoming in Fence, Pleiades, Gulf Coast, Colorado Review, Crab Orchard Review, Sentence, CutBank, Fiddlehead, and Hayden’s Ferry Review.