I tell you, I felt like an elephant
that night, the night of the harvest.
Each furrow put on airs in the moonlight,
and the stars were so much confetti
that took more than one lifetime to fall …

I blundered about, wondered where to sit;
I asked after you. My trunk was so heavy—
and can you believe the effort it took
to lift that enormous head? I cut a figure
in my tux—Madras, scarlet cummerbund—

but my ears, big as pup tents, or two ’40’s
hats, heard everything & gave me away …
I stood in the garden, munching the trees—
I had a case of nerves! When you emerged,
gowned in confetti, I felt like the roar

of the crowd in your ears like small bells—
I was everywhere with good intentions!
When I sat on the bench, how could I know
you’d flip up over me, into the shrubs?
And if I spoke of the mud bath—so cooling,

& a protection against flies—I was only
practicing the lost art of conversation.
I’d forgotten my index cards with the topics,
after all my years wandering the high grasses …
As I watched you limp back to the dance,

I vowed I’d become a gazebo for you, a bower!
Oh, anything to hold you in my arms …
My bleating stopped the music, signaled
everyone into the garden—so embarrassing!
But as they all honked into our presence,

I tell you, I felt like an elephant, seeing
the faces above the collars: lizard, goat, rhino.
Like a high school reunion you pass up,
or waking from a dream, admitting everything …
And you saw it, too—smiling, rubbing my trunk.

— James Cummins, author of Then & Now

Good Neighbors

He wondered how she knew about the Cheetos;
he thought he’d washed the orange dust off clean.
Did she note down each case of beef burritos
the dry-ice truck delivered, sight unseen?
And what about the Snickers bags? Did she
use high-powered binoculars to scan?
Did she note down each luscious wheel of Brie,
each sugared soda in its cheerful can?
What was her interest here? What did she make
of diet gone awry? Or his dismay,
as he insanely wolfed each dwindling cake?
What were her thoughts, one whole backyard away?
He thought he’d call her up, ask her to dine.
He’d better buy another box of wine.

—James Cummins, author of Then & Now

This poem is a reprint from Every Day Poems.

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another box of wine James Cummins photo by Kelly Sauer

photo by Kelly Sauer

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