Two Poems by John Deming

John Deming
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Elephants at Dawn
for Graeme Bezanson

Graeme, there are elephants in the midtown tunnel, 
a coyote on the roof of a bar in Queens,
a snowy owl in a tree on Governors Island,

a hawk on the roof of a Dyckman Street diner 
eating a rat. Four people gawk at the scene, 
which is grotesque—

“not for the bloody violence,”

one says,
“but because this fit-looking bird
is swallowing up pieces of an unwashed city rat.” 

After you left for France, a flea from a New York rat

tested positive for Bubonic Plague, which hawks 
can’t contract, but as always I’m left asking questions: 
before leaving this island, how many fleas

did that hawk wash down like we do particles of plastic? 
How does anyone leave any island other than
by forgetting in our heads, how do animal skulls

protect us from the beams orbiting down, 
the orange renaissance in the sky,
the rash of slithering complacencies

that work like funny grubs their slow paths 
inside our caskets? I remember it both ways,
that the past is depression and the future anxiety,

that the past is gratitude (thanks for the gratitude) 
and the future curiosity, by grace the curious hope 
seen in the tiny Painted Bunting

who found subsistence in Prospect Park
for a few days in 2015, dazing birders
with his galactic feathers and ordinary hops.


John Deming

John Deming is author of the poetry book Headline News (Indolent Books 2018) and Director of the Writing Center at LIM College. He lives in New York City. 

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