This elephant keeper shoved a hose up The ass of an elephant every day. He Told a man. The man said, So why don't You quit? And the keeper said, You have To understand: elephant bowels are fragile, You only spray a little and shit flies All over. . . . And the man said, I understand, I think, someone has to, but why don't you Quit? And the keeper said, And leave show Business? I don't know who first told me, You'll die someday, you can't live forever. I don't know who took my hand and said, Some things, not all things, are possible. At a state mental hospital where I work I asked a patient once what he remembered. Everything. Everything that ever happened. Thinking back, incompletely, I think I must've disbelieved his ease, his willingness To witness all his loss always, so I asked, Just having heard the stupid elephant hoke: Anything about elephants? pets? He had a dog: Bean, Bingo, something like that. And he walked Him every day on a leash and they bought A hamburger every day on South Harrison Or North Harrison, somewhere in Shelbyville. I asked where the dog was. He said he loved Him so much he'd drink out of the river And the dog would too, he loved him So much. I have to admit I had to say Something and of course there was nothing To say. His head was down as he drank. The water was sweet. Easily I left him Alone to walk myself out of the river Of sense. I remember riding shotgun In a truck with my Uncle Ralph across flat Kansas. He said something. I said, Really? And he said, Hell yes boy, do you think I'd lie? Why do you always say really? And I didn't know, God help me, I don't Know. He was my uncle. He wouldn't lie. Truth is I hadn't been listening, But watching the long rows pass my window, I was busy being elephant keeper And elephant, the hose inside, the dog That drank with a man, and the river, where Everything is equal, is possible, where I knew I'd die someday and live without Sight or sound or touch, possibly forever.
From Any Given Day, by Ralph Burns, published by University of Alabama Press. Copyright © 1994 by Ralph Burns. All rights reserved. Used with permission.