Elephant Water

Dan Veach



When I returned to Southern California after the tumultuous years in Boston, my aim was simple:
to be a poet. I had absolutely no idea how to go about doing this. And so my plan was equally simple:
to refuse, as much as possible, to be anything else.

There were some obvious requirements, such as staying alive. This proved to be unexpectedly difficult. Finally, in an act of pure desperation, I called the school system’s main number and asked if they had anything for a poet. The operator, puzzled but intrigued, took on my impossible quest. As she rang office after office, I quietly pondered the school system’s address in the phone book: 4100 Normal Street. I had come a long way from my “normal” childhood in Gardena….

At last, a hearty baritone voice came on the line: “You’re a poet? Great! We need a poet! When can you start?” Shortly after picking myself up off the floor, I was being introduced to classes of bright, excited kids all over San Diego County as that most exotic of beasts, a real live poet.

Thankful at least to be a live poet, I now turned to the even greater challenge of being a real one. The problem is, you can’t simply make a poem happen, no matter how much you may want to. The “grace” of inspiration comes about in odd and unpredictable ways, as we learn from an old elephant we’ll soon meet.    



Copyright 2012 by Daniel Veach

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I. Out West