The Circus Fat Lady Eulogizes Mary the Elephant by Rachel Wiley

In 1916, Mary the Elephant was hanged from a crane for the murder of her inexperienced trainer during a parade through downtown Kingsport, TN. While being stripped of her ivory it was discovered that she’d had two abscessed teeth on the side of her face where the trainer struck her with a bull hook.

They’ve gone and made you a ghastly ornament of uncontrol Mary.

Your pain overturned a whole city atop the man who dared to handle you

like some dumb creature.

Your largesse

both your attraction and your charge

Isn’t it something,

the way these small souled people toss their hard earned nickels at our feet

to marvel at our vastness

to be in the presence of our dangerous

to provoke our great mass into motion so they can crown themselves movers of mountains

worshiping and damning us in one breath for being the wonders that we are.

The message is clear

if you cannot be small at least make it easy to handle you

if you must be massive, be docile

Your anger, Mary…

Our anger, Mary,

it reminds them of the ways we can undo them with half the effort.

How dare you want for gentleness reserved for pretty little things.

How dare you be so beastly when they only beat you grateful.

And look,

they’ve gone all drunk on bad justice

hauled you into the sky a thunder cloud,

named themselves the Gods of your demise

They’ve robbed your gravestone face with hacksaws for all the trouble of your unrest

It took an entire mob and a railroad crane to give them their pound of flesh

and still you gave them tons

how quickly they forget the monumental hearts that drive these monstrous bodies

Mary, You are survived by all things large and wild hearted and irreproachable

I survive you

I survive you in every beastly enchantment I can muster.

Rachel Wiley is a native of Columbus and a Capital University graduate. Her first full-length collection of poetry, Fat Girl Finishing School, was just released by Timber Mouse Publishing.

The Funeral Hat by Joshua Butts

Trade a scam for an uneven dollar

and you’ll pay it back double,

said the man in the shirtsleeves.

Dandelions were burning

like cartoon cigarettes

out the window of the traveling bus.

I knew that night I could blow smoke

through the hotel room transom

and somehow escape

the wind of the miles

but that hour was long off and running

away couldn’t get me

far enough into the scam

and I had no scam to pull.

I had been living life cleanly,

each morning practicing the military

tuck. But this man kept promising

a lozenge, a change in temperature.

He had a nasty cut on his lip.

I asked him when he sat down, Are you alright, Sir?

He said it was an old wound

and that I should see the knife.

Bruised sidekicks are easy playmates

but this man was a stranger and his

chatter was becoming more and more profuse.

His mother had memories of the Crimean War.

I felt that couldn’t have been possible—

we were riding on a bus.

He told a story about a young girl drowning.

He and a cousin were at a picnic—

migrant workers, vagrants really.

Bastard that I am, I hadn’t heard of the Crimean War

and thought for an hour of the blackness

of the night. It was like this new thing

they talk about—noir film. I don’t like Robert Mitchum.

We are the same age. I think he looks like a wooden box

trying to have a conversation with a baby.

He’s rough. He splinters. I don’t think women

would give him a glance but then

they might lie if I brokered an opinion.

In every hotel bar I get the shut up and go to sleep—

but that’s because I’m fat. I wait until the next day

but then I eat, forking my way.

I’m too young to feel that wheels are fictional creatures.

They speak to me like the whining score in a melodrama.

The strings bring the sun up—

in the theatre it would be strings.

Joshua Butts is from Jackson, OH. His poems have appeared in various journals including Sonora Review, Tampa Review, Harpur Palate, Forklift, Ohio, and Quarterly West. He is a Visiting Professor of English and Philosophy at the Columbus College of Art and Design. This selection comes from his forthcoming collection, New to the Lost Coast, to be published in early 2015 by Gold Wake.

Unspoken by M. Charles

Lathan turned the corner at the huge Joey Monsoon painting that clung to the side of the building, a testament to creative genius, and shuffled down the center of the street where the blacktop yielded to brick. He moved like a hipster zombie fresh back from a failed get-your-shit-together zombie weekend encounter. He paused to drag his bare feet, starting with his heel, then the fleshy pad at the base of the toes, and finally the toes, across the dry surface of the bricks, the grit, decades of use – carriages, horses, cars, bikes, and pedestrians leaving the faintest echo. He wanted to feel the August heat, the abrasive rasping of the bricks; he wanted to feel…anything. No echoes stirred from the street. He felt numb.

His hair was too long. His pants too tight. He had too many tattoos. Their criticisms should have become benign by now but family is family and their words strike as no others can no matter who or what we think we have managed to become. He re-seated his earbuds and let Topher James’ bluesy insight wash over him.

Can’t keep comin’ back around

Like a broken record player

Can’t keep comin’ back around

Like a faded tape machine

A left, a right, and an alley led to the metal stairs hugging the two-story, his apartment over the garage.  Lathan removed the earbuds and climbed the rusting treads, put a shoulder to the swollen wooden door that always sticks, and entered the apartment. Eric, in over-sized athletic shorts and a faded t-shirt, sprawled on the leather sectional, a splurge when money wasn’t as tight, watching Sports Center. The yammer and endless string of stats were a mesmerizing eye bath for the former college linebacker.

“Your mom called my cell again. Says you aren’t answering yours.” His eyes momentarily strayed from the screen. “Your feet are filthy. Where the hell are your shoes?”

Lathan didn’t answer. Instead he grabbed a beer, opened it, and slid to the kitchen floor with his back against the fridge.

“Said you know how your dad gets sometimes and to call her so she knows you are ok.” Eric scratched himself with the remote. Cursing when he inadvertently changed the channel, he pulled the remote from his shorts and thumbed the numbers to return to Sports Center.

Lathan took a long pull from the beer bottle and ran a hand through his hair, a dark brown mop of shoulder-length waves, pushing it back from his eyes.

“That’s disgusting.”


“Digging into your junk with the remote.” He pointed with the bottle. “That is disgusting.”

Eric shot Lathan a 3:00 AM last-round look. “You want me to show you disgusting?”

A smile sprang to Lathan’s face reflexively. “Shit no. No one does disgusting like you.” He drained the bottle.

“Damn straight.”

Damn straight it was. Eric was large, loud, impossible to embarrass, and extremely loyal. Lathan sometimes wondered if the ox was empathic as well. Lathan crossed the room and fell into the deep cushions beside Eric who immediately pulled him in for a crushing bear hug, holding him there for a lingering moment before pushing him effortlessly to the corner of the sectional. As he did, he noticed the dried blood under Lathan’s nose.

Forty-five minutes earlier, Lathan had been across town in a fight with his dad. A knock down fight with the man who taught him how to fish, ride a bike, and change the oil on a riding mower he would never own. Words bled to shoving, which found them grappling on the floor, neither one of them willing to make a fist, both of them fueled by a raging fire they did not understand. He had managed to disentangle himself and stand to his feet before his dad had grabbed him by the ankles, sending him into a side table like a felled redwood, snapping two of the table legs and giving flight to the Bless Our Happy Home candy dish.  He had stumbled to the front door and looked back at his dad who was still on the floor gulping air fish-mouthed and clutching Lathan’s green canvas shoes – incidental spoils of war. Dabbing at the blood seeping from his nose with the backs of his hands, he had walked seven blocks to the free bus and slid into an empty seat. Shops, galleries, restaurants, and people passed the bus window in a blur of grey.

And now, on the sofa with talking heads on T.V. postulating about things that don’t truly mean a damn thing in the balance of just trying to survive the day to day, Lathan found a lack of fear in the numbness that was a momentarily acceptable substitute for courage. The courage to…


“They’ll turn up,” he interrupted Lathan, knowing.

“What will?”

“The shoes.  You’ll find them.”

“Oh, yea, I guess, I guess I will.”

M. Charles is a writer and project manager who works in the Short North. A long-time supporter of local art, artists, and musicians, M. Charles also paints and works with metals—mostly copper—in his rural studio.