The Unseen World

The Unseen World



About the book

The poems in The Unseen World wander just below the surface under water and under the moon, beneath fields and cities, love and family. They bump into dead Spanish poets in bus station gift shops, take coffee with Soren Kierkegaard at IKEA and spot Henry Miller emerging from 14th Street subway. Cameo appearances include two bullfighters, a bear out shopping a pair of pants, a dental assistant’s ovaries and a voting pig named Victoria. All the while the action is being filmed by Robert Frank from his perch in Cape Breton to a sound track of the distant barking of dogs. 

About the author

Elkins, David

David Elkins is a poet and short story writer.  His poems have appeared in Harper’s Magazine, The Page, Panorama, and Now and Our Times.  He won the International CKG Award for Poetry in 1992, and his work has twice been selected for Silver Awards.  His work includes Relative Exposures: Felling the Family Tree (1998) and A Bulldog’s Guide to Small Engine Repair (2002) which he published under the pseudonym Portlin Cochise. He was a finalist for the A. M. Klein Award and was featured artist at the Ottawa Writer’s Festival in September 2002.  Elkins divides his time between Montreal, QC, Sedona, AZ; Taos, NM; and Alburg Springs, VT.


Duck eggs

She lays eleven mottled brown eggs
under a bush in the busy park,
her mate lays one black sideways eye on them,
cocks his iridescent head and flies off north.

They hatch
one moonless night,
she tumbles off-springs
into stone-rimmed pond,
too young to fly
they paddle close
she will not leave them.

Brindled like them,
she waits and watches,
keeps dangerous gulls at bay,
counts them with her orange beak,

I count them too
and think of poems I’ve made
and keep locked away in a drawer.


Driving half-awake
Cold coyote howl-dawn
High desert Arizona
I-40 semis swerving
Midnight truckers
Smoked-out reveries
Plump sleek sexy Jenny-Lou
Asleep back home in Tennessee
And me with Kerouac on CD
Dreaming down old meteor crater,
Hopi cloud-corn-clown,
Petrified forest, ghost buffalo
America New World Promise Paradise
So sweet, so broke

O Jack O Jack O
Beatific Bodhisattva wise-angel face
Haikus pouring off like milk
White light inner delight sphere music
Blessing form, inside torn
Froggy-Frenchy old Lowell Mass
Old Quebec wolf river
God visioned catholic loving
O Jack O Jack O

Frisco worn down dirty bar bash
Dipsy tipsy
Night hammer punch-out
Black silk-wet street shroud
Slouch-hat brown-bagged men
Nightmaring under Bowery-busted bridges
Train sound music

O Jack,
Dream shaper, pied piper piss-up
Heart-America prisoner-guard
Queer-twisted, planed down, blown-up,
Hope-koan Zen-land
Drunken asshole
Sublime, word-wringer, worry-warrior
Your songs, Jack
Jesus Jack, heart go pitter-pat
How you do that, Jack?
Who are we, Jack?
And who the hell are you, Jack?

Why you go down dead?
Why you go down dead, you bastard?
Why you leave us hummin’, singin’, screamin’, joy-seekin’?
Why you put heaven in age-beaten, pee-pee pant,
Life-drifted street face?
Why you go down dead, Jack?
What we do from now ’til we,
You know, Jack,
’Til we
down dead
like you,



The writing here ranges from poems so crisply cinematic that reading them is like watching a three-D movie, to poems so simply and delicately honest that they float on the page like watercolour. Elkins's talent is prodigious and his book… >>

— Carol Haralson

When I first met David Elkins, I saw a tall, mature, willowy man who read his poem about a boy shunned by others but befriended by the poet. It was so sensitive that I bought his book A Bulldog’s Guide to… >>

— Robin John Anderson

As promised in the back cover, Elkins’ poems really do “wander just below the surface … beneath fields and cities, love and family.” Some won the International CKG Award for Poetry in 1992.

Also an award-winning short… >>

— Philip K. Thompson The ChronicleHerald

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