On the care and feeding of elephants in living rooms

You have to pretend she’s not there, you see
It doesn’t matter that you can see her with your own two eyes
It doesn’t matter when elephant farts waft into your bedroom at night
It doesn’t matter — it doesn’t matter
What matters is that she doesn’t exist
And it is your job to maintain this fiction
Or you, not the elephant, will become the problem
Everyone will sweep into damage control
“Sie hallucinates sometimes, you should know that.
Like just before or after a seizure?
Olfactory hallucinations are common in epilepsy
Those elephant farts sie’s smelling, they can’t be real.”

“Sie’s a child, and children are known for
Their overactive imaginations
And even their tendency to exaggerate
If something makes a good story.
And an elephant in the house
Makes an awfully good story
Doesn’t it dear?
Isn’t it only a story?’

I may be meaning-deaf or meaning-blind
But I have an uncanny ability
To sense the presence of something
By the shape people create
When they look everywhere
Everywhere except where that thing is

And I know there are conversations
We will never have
Because you can’t even stand the thought of it
Never mind the real thing

And I’ve finally realized that’s okay
Not every elephant needs to be brought out in the open
Some elephants are shy and want to be anonymous
Some elephants would rather not be seen or spoken of
Some elephants would rather die than show their faces
And I’ve learned too late that pointing them out
Is not always in anyone’s best interests

When I was fifteen I realized I was not ready to be engaged
When I was nineteen I realized I was not ready for a child
When I was twenty-six my body started pushing me to have a child
When I was twenty-eight my periods stopped

I am thirty-four now, the same age as when my mother had me
I was a latecomer to our family
Unplanned, unexpected, but never unwanted
Fourteen years younger than the first

And I am thirty-four now, and I think that
If I wanted a child
If I had a partner
I could finally be a good parent
Or as good a parent as I could be
When I was younger I worried
That my anger problems
Would lead me to hurt a child
Not on purpose
But it happens
Because no parent is perfect
And I could not let it happen
So I refused to have a child

And what I have learned from the elephant
(Because she talks to me sometimes,
Because I’m the only one who acknowledges
Her presence in our lives.)
Is that parents are just human beings who made love

And the best parents love their children
And do their best to do right by them
But even the best parents do things
That they will regret the rest of their liives
And I see the shape of that regret
Every time I see the shape of the elephant
Traced out by the things nobody is willing to say

I will not name the elephant
I will not name her shape
I will only say that I forgive
Everything she represents
That I forgave both of you
A long time ago

When I realized
I could not have possibly done any better
I would have done things more terrible
Than anything you could have done
I know you have regrets
We all have regrets
I regret the things I put you through as well
But I love you

Elephant or no elephant
You’re my parents
And right now
With so little time left
That’s all that matters
I love you
I forgive you
I forgave you long ago
It doesn’t matter what I forgive you for
The past is the past
It can stay in the past
We don’t need to dredge it up
To declare our love authentic
And meaningful
And real

We are all ordinary human beings
Doing the best we can (most of us)
In a world that makes that hard to do
Parents are not gods, they’re just people
Who had children
And muddled through the best they could
(Most of them)
Please forgive me
If I have never made my own forgiveness clear
It’s real
It’s love
It’s here

Bone dry

I believe that I'm strong —
Resilient I say —
Like rubber you push me
I push back, away

I believe I can handle
What the world throws at me
But then the world throws it
Too fast at me for me to see

It hits me in the head
I fall and hit the ground
My mouth is full of mud
I cannot make a sound
I guess I overestimated
My resiliency
I'm bawling like a baby
There is no dignity

Nobody wants to see it
Everybody looks away
When they see someone
Crying in this way

It's not demure
It's not polite
It's not crocodile tears
It's not sweet
It's not cute
It's only primal

It's loss of control
It's “I want my mommy”
And “I want my daddy”
And “I want whatever gods I believe in”
And “I don't care, I want them NOW NOW NOW!” <stomp>
I told you there's no dignity here

But I can't ask for my dad to solve my problems
He has no power to stop his own death
I can't ask my mom
She's got to take care of my dad
Without dying herself

If grief is love then my heart is breaking at the seams
If grief is love then it is only echoed in bottomless screams
And fearing to cry for fear I'll never stop
And crying in the least dignified way
Wailing, screaming, bawling my eyes out

And people ask if it makes me feel better after a “good cry”
It just makes me feel weary and tired and bone, bone dry
So I try not to cry, to no avail this time
For I am going to wail until the end of time
And it won't be demure little upper-class tears
It's the screaming and shaking that plagued my childhood years

I know now it stops
I know my resilience is real
It's not just hubris or pride
I really can endure most anything

But sometimes
Like now
That's just not how it feels
And I wail till I'm bone dry
Bone dry




When we died, we found each other.

I was there
I was there and I felt
Your hands around my neck
Hands on my chest pushing me underwater
Tying me into the car and starting the gas
The hot poker
The bullet
The knife
I was there and I felt
Where is the air
Why isn’t my body working
Why can’t I get air
That overwhelming hunger for air
And then…
And then…

But I was there and I felt

The one person I was supposed to trust more than anyone in the world
And she abandoned me and spat my love back in my face

And I was there and I felt

The one person I never trusted
Even though everyone else said she was a saint

And she was a saint because of me
She was a saint for putting up with me
She was a saint…

…because the only person who would spend any time around me
the only kind of person who would ever want to
the only kind of person who could care for a person as
as me
would be a saint
wouldn’t they?

And since only a saint would take care of me
Then it could only be expected
It could only be expected
That a normal person
Could never handle
The burden
Of a person like me
(and therefore)
That it’s understandable
It’s understandable if
If someone would
Just want
Me to die.

My suffering was over, they said at my funeral
(When I even got a funeral, which was not always)
My mother was sentenced to
Five years
Fourteen years
Twenty years
Of living with me
(Even when she didn’t live with me at all)
She did not need any further prison sentence
For my murder

When I died, I stopped being separate
When I died, we found each other
We found each other
All the murdered disabled children
Cast out of life by those we should have been able to trust
And we held each other
And we became each other
Now we speak with one voice

Understand this first and foremost
No matter what you have heard about us
We loved
We could love
That we could love means
That we felt what you did
We felt it then
We feel it now
We know what evil means
Because we know love

Now understand this:

We were there
We saw
We knew
We understood what you never thought we could

And now we look you in the eye
And in the name of love
In the name of everything holy
In the name of the union we have found
(Which is nothing, nothing, nothing less than the deep universal love that They said we could never feel)

We say