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  You could have a big dipper   

Glaxo by Dave O'Leary

In the darkened room

I step up to the mic

with my single poem

and two beers,

always two,

but nothing happens.

The Big Dipper just sits

there in the sky saying,

“I’m the fucking Big

Dipper.” Then it’s silent

and a bit menacing,

reminding me of old

stories like the time

when the elephant


from our town’s

elephant house.

I read about it

in the newspaper

while eating a roast beef sandwich

and thinking

with the elephant gone

the town should get a cat,

a pile of them,

a bundle mewing

and pointing the way,

“mew mew,” to the ice rink,

“mew mew,” to the golf course,

or perhaps

something else,

some other message

would hint at the whereabouts

of the pachyderm.

And yesterday

afternoon at a sound

I looked up at a kind

of buzzing, a droning

musical mew

and an aeroplane

soared straight up,

…and wreathed

upon the sky in letters.

But what letters

were these, those?

I went seeking them

up the Space Needle

with a lover.

and an old timer

up there wondering the same

offered to take

our picture, to capture

the millennium

with the press

of a wrinkly finger

to the screen of my


And the finger

pressed, the finger


and a night turned

into a lifetime

to be gazed at, longed

for years from now

when wrinkly myself

I pull past lives

from a box

and say to anyone

who will listen,

There she was!”

But back to the letters.

Only for a moment

did they lie still;

I looked on

and the aeroplane again, in a fresh

space of sky,

began writing a K,

an E,

a Y perhaps?

I was never able

to discern,

not exactly,

but often at night

I drink and study

the map

on the wall, the world


and I raise my bottle,

singular in this



I could be anywhere

in the world tonight,

with anyone

speaking any language,

but I am here,

only here,


the only language

I know

while imagining lovers,

“No more stories.”

She grabs my hand

and leads

me to the couch, puts

Julia Massey

in the CD player, cranks

it up. “Let’s just listen

a while.”

And the music ends.

And the papers print

almost nothing about

the elephant anymore.

I step away

from the microphone

with my two empties.

I put some cash

on the bar and walk out

toward the rest

of the poems.

And that’s when I see

it, the elephant,

hiding behind a tree,

a redwood, I think,

but that can’t possibly

be, not here.

I approach it

not cautiously,

and when it sees

me it begins wagging

its tail and mewing

and the Big Dipper

tilts, empties itself

of fresh dripping stories

and the newspaper

writes again

in headlines

I can discern

but will never

fully understand.


Italicized text borrowed from Mrs. Dalloway (Virgina Woolf) and The Elephant Vanishes (Haruki Murakami).

Julia Massey is worth a listen:


Dave O'Leary is a writer and musician in Seattle. He's published two novels and has had work featured in, among others, the Daily Drunk, Versification, and Reflex Fiction. His collection of poetry and prose—I Hear Your Music Playing Night and Day—will be published in June 2021 by Cajun Mutt Press. Twitter: @dolearyauthor

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