Queens Zoo

At the Queens Zoo, the boy leans against exhibit glass. Inside, elephants: their tusks adzed and planed, the color of snow at Croton- on-Hudson, their heads massive, the minutiae and architecture of the skulls beautiful and discernible beneath their skin. Lying atop the staircase at a broken angle, star-fished, trickle of blood escaping his nose, flesh the hue of Li Po’s moon, the boy had left his father earlier that day, but only after the lifting of the head, the placement of the orthopedic pillow beneath cervical vertebrae, because the neurologist had said it might help, because of Operation Desert Storm, because of the IED planted under the Humvee, because of A, because of B. Because every so often his eyes unlock to expose bloodshot sclera, no sight, no window to the soul, closed doors, he’s in another world. The zoo has retractable stadium ceilings and is heated with massive lamps; snow dissolves long before it fastens to savanna grass, acacia boughs, orchids; and the elephants trumpet, full of thirst, and the twin valves in their trunks jet currents of cold clear water. Iraq was unbearable, blasted and cracked, as if Medusa had walked through; when the IED exploded the noise rawed his ears, the sand turned to glass, and the boy’s father could not bear to see his own reflection. At the watering hole, the boy watches as elephants kneel to kiss theirs.

Joshua James Sanders studied English with an emphasis in poetry at the Pennsylvania State University. His poems have appeared in Kalliope, Profane, and the Blue Earth Review. He likes and gathers inspiration from, among other things, county carnivals and the clowns that travel with them, and his neighbors’ dairy heifers.