I’d Like to Have an Elephant’s Giant Heart [poem] by Barbara Daniels

I praise the telephone, its squawky messages,
its interruptions. I praise air, water, earth,
blood. And women, their oversize glasses

and off-the-shoulder summer blouses.
Have you been to Nina’s? Last night I ate
so much of her wonderful thin-crust pizza

that I staggered to bed in a boy’s bedroom—
the boy at his father’s, but he left his books,
baseball caps, dart board, tinned survival kit.

The world is broken, its greatest show
an elephant balanced on a ball, man
in a top hat snaking a pink plastic whip.

Dad always said, “Look, clothes on a line”
as if nothing is better than white sheets
and underpants flapping in sunlight.

I praise parenthood, a mother whacking
a tennis ball toward her daughter, a father
cutting an apple into chunks. Let there be

split skin healing under gauze dressings.
Let there be hospital call bells answered
quickly, running footsteps, doctors, EMTs.

Why must a girl in a too-large dress
walk by herself through sewage?
I hope a boy’s big blue shoes will last

till he grows to fit them. And you?
Remember when we met—the way
we talked till a librarian angrily

shushed us? I didn’t know I needed
your warm arms, your wit, your
laughter. I praised them. And I still do.


Image of 1930s Switchboard Operator

Image by Giulio Mola

Barbara Daniels’ book Rose Fever: Poems was published by WordTech Press and her chapbooks Black Sails, Quinn & Marie, and Moon Kitchen by Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press. Her poetry has appeared in Prairie SchoonerWomenArtsMid-American Review, The Literary Review, and many other journals. She received three Individual Artist Fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.