Childloss And The Empathy Machine

By Jennifer Givhan

Image: Flickr/Mathias.D1


after Alexandra Eldridge’s Walk On, 20×16”

  1. Many Elephants

In the mixed media the elephant bears a boat

In the postcard-sized glossy print the gray beast carries a weight

In the book the ocean elephant is dripping from the frame

In Walk On the large one’s burden is a pale pink boat with nails for oars

That elephant seems painted to a wall, & cracking—

  1. My Elephant

I hold an elephant’s heart like a wooden boat, pink
& cracking in my own chest

beating like floating, it weighs thirty-seven pounds on land.
In another country an elephant roams tall grasses & stops completely

where her loved one has died, her pause drips into my frame—I held
a little love. The elephant in her heart knows this,

carries it high above her. It is nailed to her.

The Empathy Machine

The spider I killed first
(I feared it might hurt us)—

then the fly on the window
(its broken-clock sound). I peeled it

from glass with an envelope’s back
and watched its red eyes bulge

its body already paper-stiff,
wings like butcher’s wrap, rainbow-tinged

threaded mildew-green at the edges.
I studied it while the warm-blooded dog

sniffed and whined at my hand
then followed me to the bathroom

where I flushed My Noiseless One
—My Moral Relative.

I’ve heard of children dropping
small animals

from rooftops onto trampolines
stories below. I’ve heard there were no

survivors. I’ve heard without exhaling
the clinking of copper pennies we lay

on each other’s eyes—
I’ve heard across the river
(like dog paws on tile)

water lapping boat.
—The buzzing of the coils that bear us

together. The crackling
of wires. Climb with me

up some great height. Dare us
not to fall.

Jenn GivhanJennifer Givhan is a Mexican-American poet from the Southwestern desert. She is the author of Landscape with Headless Mama (2015 Pleiades Editors’ Prize) and Protection Spell (2016 Miller Williams Series, University of Arkansas Press, forthcoming). Her honors include an NEA Fellowship, a PEN/Rosenthal Emerging Voices Fellowship, The Frost Place Latin@ Scholarship, The 2015 Lascaux Review Poetry Prize, The Pinch Poetry Prize, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best of the Net 2015, Best New Poets 2013, AGNI, Crazyhorse, Blackbird, and The Kenyon Review. She is Poetry Editor at Tinderbox Poetry Journal and teaches at The Poetry Barn.

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