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poetry Elephants

The circus--as in Bread & Circus--is coming to town but as Oregon poet Amy Miller explains with brilliant clarity, it will not set you free.


By Amy Miller

America, remember how you trained them
for the crowd, jumbo hides and bellies
teetering on stools, soft and moving
tips of trunks fingering a coin,
a tail.

Something large and Barnum
paints the darkened posters in our hearts.
We eat peanuts while someone tells us
we’re the greatest. Elephants
and donkeys and a lady
on one leg,

one wheel inside another
and another, all backward
and distracting, glitter
you can see from space (but
up close, glue and sweat
and welts),

elephants and tigers—
a metal ark that lumbers
through your town. Doors grind open.
Here’s your freedom on a chain.

Amy Miller’s writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, Nimrod, Rattle, Willow Springs, and ZYZZYVA. Her full-length poetry collection The Trouble with New England Girls won the Louis Award from Concrete Wolf Press and will be published in 2018, and her chapbooks include I Am on a River and Cannot Answer (BOAAT Press) and Rough House (White Knuckle Press). She lives in Oregon and blogs at

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