by Sam Niven


                              after Mark Strand


Is it you, standing among the olive trees

beyond the sanded road? You in the moonlight

mangling twigs with one hoof while the others


drill into the damp earth, swallowing all but

your yellowed tusks into the tawny night? Is it you

beneath whom the grey-green grass wrinkles 


like plum peel? I watched the hills turn indigo, 

the flags awaken into jigsaw streets scented 

with fresh oil and sweat and met by the international


anthem of rapid pulses—but did not make it home 

before nightfall. You emerge from the grove,  

nostrils steaming. I imagine your teeth


at my throat. But that’s you—isn’t it?—

squealing like a rusted hinge and prodding

fallen olives because you too feared the deep


evening, and yet are unprepared for it? 

Are you savoring the scent of flesh in the warm 

Tuscan air, or is it me you’re afraid of, the tip 


of your snout trembling like my hands? 

Is it you or the milky, desolate fog that breathes 

the command into our bodies: run, run—? 


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