How To Tell You What Restraint Means

Kelli Allen

Mirabi says elephants know the way

down each mountain. Valleys pass

in supplication under such feet.

Between the clover and crabgrass, Vandeventer,

grackles arching in heat above, and one thick

wounded earthworm at your toe.

Reluctance is measurable: a glance toward you,

and two thousand blinking nods converge

to shout Everyone runs away in the end!

Let’s agree to wedging eggshells into belly meat.

Whose fault is it when this pauper refuses a princess

lunch from his beaten violin case? Music, too, is blameless.

When the parrot reclines on his therapist’s chaise

and weeps, the one asks the other: are you certain

you do not need the cracker? Desire only repels the alarm.

Sometimes the break is the seduction. Pennies

cover nipples at dawn leaving the eyes naked,

waiting for branches to lower, scrape, and claim.

Kelli Allen’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the US and internationally. She is Poetry Editor for The Lindenwood Review and she directs River Styx’s Hungry Young Poets Series. Her chapbook, Some Animals, won the 2016 Etchings Press Prize. Her chapbook, How We Disappear, won the 2016 Damfino Press award. Her full-length poetry collection, Otherwise, Soft White Ash, arrived from John Gosslee Books (2012) and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her latest collection, Imagine Not Drowning, was released by C&R Press in January 2017. Learn more at