'Pachyderm' by Kevin Young

"Pachyderm" from Kevin Young's "Blue Laws." Copyright © 2016 by Kevin Young. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Reviewed for the LA Times by Craig Teicher.


just within the circus
of the tattooed man's
skin stood a still bull
elephant brought
and tamed from
the plains of grayest
Africa nails painted red
acrobats with flesh
colored costumes lying
beneath his harmless dark
foot he worked for applause
and peanuts until he grew
used to the weight of clowns
washed white until their feet
seemed tongues
or pendulums on his back
until he grew silent and
toothless a parlor piano

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