We Outlast Empire: Jennifer Martelli

We Outlast Empire is a recurring series which aims to highlight poetry that explores the many angles of our current global and political situation. With words, we hope, we may transmute a part of ourselves—a part however small or large—that can exist without drawn borders, without violence, without injustice.

Discussing Elephant Puppets During the Refugee Ban

Little bistro tucked into the clapboard block between a bar and a bar—
cobblestones, leaded windows, paned—

elephant puppets so big ten men can fit under their pipe bodies
and manipulate four fat limbs and a trunk: gray veils mimic a pachydermic funeral

and lapis lazuli eyes, big as a bruise on a thigh.

Mechanical elephants: we talk about them over an olive sampler—

there’s that uncanny dip, that sweet valley of something that looks
like something else: deep eyes, big as the loaf on the plate, big as a hole

in the middle of a nation.

Certainly, this is not my house, this Mia Casa—
at the bistro, we talk about the mammoth elephant puppets from northern Africa.

We talk about how they seem to dance but it’s the men
running under the articulated pipes and the sheer veils.


Inauguration Poem


I’m going to have this poem eat itself all up
the way I eat a bunch of cold grapes.
The first bite punctures the firm green skin:
the skin taut as a balloon,
the inside exposed yet still shaped.
Don’t start counting syllables—
this is not that
poem from there.
It’s American.

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