| Poetry

Swans Reflecting Elephants

Matthew Gilbert           

            “[We] resembled each other like two drops of water, but we had different reflections.”
                                                                            -Salvador Dali, on his brother

I was making the masks 	            for your exorcism. 
Working on your face                     in hand-cut leather. 
Are you sure you want 	                          to get rid of me? 
They performed speech therapy 	            on my sleep. 
You were bruised 	               and feted like a virgin. 
You sat in bed plucking two strings	       of a guitar 
with your inside voice.	                          Remember when 
you were five? And Mom	                    took you to the grave
and said you were	                                my reincarnation?
The hole puckered 	           at the taste of the needle. 
I spoke in the past tense 	           as if we were dead. 
They moved so you would stop	             talking to woodpiles.  
You don’t answer me 	anymore.            I’ve lost weight 
to make room for God	           inside of me, eating 
only ash and the light from the tip.    The cigarette butts 
sound like crickets 	                   when I chew them.
I am deliberately 	                           dehydrating myself
to reach suspended 	        animation. It isn’t working.
I guess my ghost isn’t holy.                 You used to slip 
my hand inside the waistband 	     of your underwear 
and say you were	                              the glass half full. 
I finish stitching                           	 the Janus mask. 
It will make you look always              in a mannish sleep. 
I try it on 	                              and smoke the cigarettes 
out of myself. 	            I wait for you to say something. 
Is it too heavy?    This face held on with string and staple, 
I’m ready to face God. 	          I’ve had that conversation 
already, you say, and it’s	                    like talking to yourself.


Matthew Gilbert has poems forthcoming or recently published in PANK, Columbia Poetry Review, Apalachee Review, DEATH HUMS, and elsewhere. In 2009 he was selected as a member of the Connecticut Poetry Circuit. He received his MFA from Columbia University in 2012.

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