CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
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.
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?
Through crust & mantle
Are you brought to perfection
Is the body a changing
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.