The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Stephen Gibson

Vintage Animal Postcard Photos


Jumbo the Elephant


                       In his India incarnations he is dead beside tracks,

                       killed by trains, passengers stopped beside the stopped

                       train to gawk at the bulk of his corpse and the cropped

                       grass filling his mouth at the moment the train impacted;

                       killed by progress—or the natural world ending up dead

                       as the still breathing machine creature’s iron stack blows

                       steam—passengers (now dead), stare, wanting to know.



African Lion


                       TR will pose with one, with his owl-rimmed spectacles

                       catching the glint of the fading sun on him and his kill,

                       his pith helmet perfectly set on his head so that his grin

                       will seem as if he is already picturing the toothy skin

                       that will be mounted in his library—he is an avid reader—

                       and a trophy kill is all part of one great, big adventure,

                       like him volunteering in the Spanish-American War.



Water Buffalo


                       The unidentified British gentleman angles the curved horns

                       so that its head is centered for the camera, with the tongue

                       lolling out of its mouth: it’s a wonder these creatures are born,

                       never mind thrive (all so instinctual, especially having young)—

                       which is the Caucasian attitude toward darker peoples/nations:

                       e.g., in under thirty years, Hồ Chí Minh (1919 Paris Ritz kitchen-

                       help) will actually believe Wilson’s talk about self-determination.



Dead Elephant


                       In 1903 America, Edison has Topsy electrocuted on film

                       to prove the lethality of AC current instead of DC current,

                       in an attempt to have every city in the US electrified by him

                       using his direct current method. Topsy had suffered torment

                       all of her life, smuggled into the country to appear inside tents

                       as an infant. After decades of abuse and after killing a trainer,

                       she’s fed cyanide in carrots before 6000 volts go through her.




STEPHEN GIBSON is the author of seven poetry collections, most recently Self-Portrait in a Door-Length Mirror (2017 Miller Williams Prize winner, selected by Billy Collins, University of Arkansas Press), The Garden of Earthly Delights Book of Ghazals (Texas Review Press, 2016), Rorschach Art Too (2014 Donald Justice Prize, Story Line Press, West Chester University), Paradise (Miller Williams finalist University of Arkansas Press, 2011), Frescoes (Lost Horse Press book prize, 2010), Masaccio’s Expulsion (MARGIE/IntuiT House book prize, 2008), and Rorschach Art (Red Hen Press, 2001).



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