Norma Jean

10 minutes after I turn out her bedside lamp
my 3-year-old is still fighting sleep,
fidgeting, asking for water, to use the toilet,
to go say ‘night to mama one last time.

I lie back on the floor and think of Norma Jean,
the 6,500-pound elephant who was the star of the Clark and Walters
circus, struck and killed by lightning in Oquawka,
Illinois in 1972. I went there with my parents once

and saw the tombstone. They buried her where she fell,
right in the town square. My daughter finally starts to snore.
I lie in the darkness a few more minutes, glad of the first
quiet moments of the day. “Bummer,” I think to myself.
The circus went out of business the following year. I get up
from the floor and leave my daughter’s room squinting into the light.


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