A sandy, perforated, bowl-shaped land
ringed round with drop-cake mountains. Oh, and grass
in isolated short-cropped nubbly stands
mowed by enthusiastic prairie dogs
who pop out of the punctures, eying us.
Perched upright with tyrannosaurus hands,
the only edible that isn't grass
eyes all potential predators, and flags
us (Polyphemus-eyed) when we come near.
We never even see them disappear;
the prairie just erases them: here, gone—
And we're gone too, as quickly as our cars
can leave behind the pale-pink mountains where
the shimmer-light can blind you. Its like Mars,
a place to stop and gawk at, full of pits
that whisper 'this is life' until you're scared
they might be right, and we're the counterfeits—
and we deny that, loudly: drive along
the scenic overlooks, then flee. Meanwhile
the well-adjusted natives nibble their
discouraged-looking strands and watch us, miles
of shiny tourists getting out of there,
afraid we'll start dissolving—
There is no Dan here; just a puppy dog
who says he's hungry (poor sad puppy). If
it makes her happy she can call him Dan.
But all of us—whoever she calls Dan—
we call our mother “Thomas.”
Yes, we know
she doesn't like it. But she calls us “Dan;”
which one's supposed to answer? There are times
that paralyzes us—
so there's no Dan.
But yesterday there was a lego-snake
who zig-zagged back and forth that felt like Dan,
and sometimes when he's feeling extra big
he says he's “Kathryn,” which is fun because
of course his sister hates that.
Dan is a word that other people use
when they want answers, and there is no Dan,
so no one has to answer—
Kathryn Jacobs is editor of The Road Not Taken and a professor at Texas A & M—Commerce. Wedge Elephant was published last year by Karen Kelsay Press. Other poems have appeared in Measure, Mezzo Cammin, and elsewhere.