Arlene Naganawa

Michael Jackson Dreams the Elephant Man


The thick bones float toward him,
the great misshapen skull bathed in white.
Shyly, he touches the explosion of cranium,
traces the cauliflower
ossified at the back of the head.
Presses his fingers against the spine,
feels pain locked in the vertebrae
of twists and spirals, feels nights
crouched in a hall beneath the crudely-
lettered sign: Half-Animal Half-Man.
Feels the rising velvet curtain.

The head rises before him, luminous.
The dreamer feels the scalpel
slicing tissue, gouging bone, chipping away
imperfections, carving his soul into something
more exquisite than God intended.
Weeping in white light
the monstrous skull whispers:
I was not loved. Yet, I believed.
The dreamer echoes:
Yes, to be beautiful,
bleeding under the bandages.


“Michael Jackson Dreams the Elephant Man” is reprinted from Crab Orchard Review.


Arlene Naganawa’s poems have appeared in The Floating Bridge Review, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Crab Orchard Review, Cider Press Review, Caketrain, Flying Chickadee, The Comstock Review and elsewhere. Private Graveyard won the Gribble Press Chapbook Contest in 2009 and The Scarecrow Bride was the Floating Bridge Chapbook Award runner up for 2013.  She lives in Seattle.

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