Tears of The Velveteen Rabbit


I don’t mean to say everything is all serious

all the time, or anything

but never having no power

and always in bed because

my bones are sweet and flake

like communion wafers

and the radiant pain of whales

harpooned in their bed

hanging on to the calm of coral

high pitched cries that escape

my fingers, so willful they barely

need me, it never stops.

and always at someone else’s

mercy, and mercy if I’m lucky,

pities or whims of folks who

would take away the paragraphs

of my pillows and linens

leaving me without a story

and pluck out my eyes like

crows in fairy tales, or set

my eyes on fire and descend

deep sea divers into the lavender

scent of the flames. I’d like to be light.

I’d like to be someone’s sharp

sunshine or funny bone, or

happy go lucky child that took

no more time or attention

than the unspoken word

once it gets uttered. To stretch

out, extend my front and hind

legs in green grass without

a thousand needles entering

the pores of my skin, without

the earth itself opening its

hungry mouth and feeding

on my breath.





i am becoming

everything appetite is


to hunger.

it feels like the truth,


the melody

of it, the quiver.


even the stronger

effort for breath.


pudding and cakes

and french fries


all day long

and counting mama’s



like rich people


counting money.


the bigger I get,

the better I levitate.


the easier I float



across bridges.


the roundness

of my aunt’s


fleshy arms

that kept the rhythms


like clocks

that harbored the wounded


and sometimes

healed the sick


are my compasses,

my maps.


hunger is the black out

of bodies dangling


from oaks,

the “received” document


with almost no

readable print.


taste is the shameful

relief that I was


not one of the them.



prison chapters


inmates couldn’t read me

but I was always there

usually in solitary


i was a crazy book

they said a banned book

too dangerous a book


the cover had been ripped

off long ago, along

with the front matter


and so i had no title

no place of origin

no shared category.


one man ran the library

one man got first pick

of all the books


he read me whenever

i was loosed

on the general population


he read me well enough

to know every word

by heart, every inch


of dialogue every broken

whisper. sometimes

in anger, he tore pages


sometimes he broke my spine

sometimes he swallowed

coniferous paper pulp


interwoven with sea

seashell bits, dried

roses, hemp fibers


cotton rag tatters

sweetgrass or palmetto

balled into a fist.


sometimes in the shower

the story unfolded all

at once, in muted sounds


and drops of blood

in a borealis of swirling

water, or in the cell


on lockdown, the lights

cut like a rival’s skin

he realized he couldn’t win.


the wafer of flame pistil

he took inside the filthiest

city he could imagine


remained alive. he

could never unread or be

un-changed by my story.






Today, when the air is sticky lead

I slow flow with the thousands.


We are like herds of lemmings, people.


We are like nanomites moving through

a monk’s bloodstream, searching

for the creator.


We have no clue to what They look like.


We may not even have

the right vision to see Them.


Through a snake’s eyes, our clarity

is abstract art, if art

is the precondition

for living.


To a cuttlefish, our black is thermal

amethyst verdant.


To a fly, we are barely a blur

and to a mosquito, but for our heat

we do not exist.


I keep thinking I see Them, but who knows.

Is that Them on the corner

wearing a bright red scarf

and broken bones?


Is that Them, on the pink

fairy bike stalked by whoops

and fists with the innocent bell

that tinkles?


Is that Them, torso bared

hammering away

on the hot tarred roof

sweat and tears dripping on hot shingles?


Is that Them, inland from the bay

on eyelids of wind

wings splayed shaving time

soft white bodies bringing

glared breath?


I keep thinking, suppose.


Suppose this is the terror

I hold back

in the twitching of a cigarette


in the dissipating dream that someday

I will make peace

with my mind and my body.


In the cavity of every eye

of every trick

circling the block,

of every ghost

inside the machine

when I cry mama, mama, is that you.



They’re just like us

and helplessly trapped in loops

like the fools in cars who think


the next time ‘ll be the perfect one

and after that, redemption, and at last

an end to hunger.



there’s no going home again

to go to.



this is all the art there is to living.



Prahlad is the author of two books of poems, Hear My Story and Other Poems, and As Good As Mango; and a memoir, The Secret Life of A Black Aspie. He is a professor at the University of Missouri, where he teaches creative writing, folklore, disability studies and film.

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