photo of community garden flowers

The Elephant in the Street by Cheryl Pappas

(If viewing this poem on a handheld device, please rotate to landscape mode to provide maximum width for each line.) 

The traffic on the highway
sounds like an ancient, injured
animal, as I
step out
past my driveway.
I’m careful to avoid holes
in the street, full of rainwater.
I don’t see
my reflection, just brown.

The houses are quiet
in the middle of the day
and a car sprints out of the tunnel
in front of me.
The dirty, scrawled-on walls close in,
as I walk on what’s left
of a sidewalk.
At the end in the grey light,
I see the park, and beyond,
the river.

It’s not a park I take my kids to—my kids
who love to run barefoot in grass.
The land’s not so much wild, as
uncared for.
Two rusty stakes jut out of the hard ground,
for a game of horseshoes I’ve never seen anyone play.
There’s a picnic table spotted with years of encrusted bird shit
and nearly every board splintered.

But someone
is keeping a small, wild garden.
It’s always overflowing with flowers
and plants I do not know the names of.

I lean down and take
in their perfume.
This.

Cheryl Pappas is a writer from Boston. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Hobart, SmokeLong Quarterly, Atlas & Alice, and more. Her website is cherylpappas.net and you can find her on Twitter at @fabulistpappas.

Lead image: “Community Garden” (via Flickr user David Merrett)