The Elephant's Eye


Paul, a clown and ringmaster,
tells circus stories, one about
a trapeze artist working
without a net, who missed
the bar, and fell on cement
with such force that blood
flew up and spattered all
over his program notes.
He told this with a smile.

For a treat once after a show
he took me back-tent to see
his elephants. Be careful, he said.
Don't get too close. They some
times will grab you with their
trunks and smash you to the
ground and trample you to death.
No one knows why they do this.

I got close to the elephants
anyway. One of them was small,
its eye was on a level with my
own. We trade stares. Something
there. Ocean bottom, star deep.
Savannah wide. Uncanny. Cold.
Our eyes held. I could not break off.
I did not know what was in there.


There is a mirror I've glued
to my shower wall. I shave
in it. But though I do not
know why I do this,
exactly: I will look at myself
and clown. I make faces.
I smile broadly so my even
teeth gleam, I sing songs loud
like, (I love me,' Or Oh you
beautiful doll.) That is a sort
of happiness. I enjoy me then.

One day after a shower I brush
my teeth. Over the sink is an
antique mirror. It is broad and
very tall. It reflects my upper
body, my face. I smile at me.
My teeth are still even but clean.
My eyes are blue. I am Norse.

I notice that I cannot look at
both eyes with both eyes at
once. I must look one at a time.
Suddenly my face is still and flat.
I place my hands on the counter.
The eye is other. Blue as sky, as
a deep lake. Cold. Bottomless.
I do not know what is in there.

Steven Fortney

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