“Painting the Elephant Gold” by Kay Merkel Boruff

Cover Image
“Sandstone Formations,” Photograph by Fay Henexson

Hell, we just wanted to see the show.

~W. C. Williams

The hay is mown and rolled, my summer dreams asleep. The child ascends to dance. In the grayness of gray, each step an entrance, I arrive at the window, you have just walked out the door. Wings shining, eyes bright, you smile your love to me. Wind chimes catch the breeze. Honey bees nestle flowers blanketing fresh dirt. Morning washes over me. Chords from the sonata float with the clouds. Luna moth circling through blue spruce echoes greetings. Trees sway, speckled light refracting on lichen and moss. Smooth rocks celebrate the dawn. Breath lifts me—I am floating, flying. I am once again with you.

The red dirt road snakes among chinaberries, ocher fruit of poisoned passion. I am the child dancing in winter. Day rests on the window sill. The strength death brings frees me. The powerless is the powerful. I resume the baci, the ceremony of embarkation, my altar stacked with hai blossoms and bhat, blessings from the monkey king, music for the dead, light for the living. I set my sights home, home to the red dirt: to the state of grace in wornness, to the Wabi-sabi, shards of pottery, cracks in gold paint, dissonance in the moonlight: May I be a well filled, a song sung, a dream remembered.



Kay Merkel Boruff lived in Viet-Nam 68-70 & was married to an Air America pilot who was killed flying in Laos 18 Feb 70. Her work has appeared in the New York Review of Books, Vanity Fair, Texas Short Stories 2, Taos Magazine, The Dallas Morning News, and the Wichita Falls Record News. In addition, she has work in Suddenly, Grasslands Review, Behind the Lines, Fifth Wednesday, Adanna, Stone Voices, Turk’s Head, and Paper Nautilus. Letters of her husband’s and hers were included in Love and War, 250 Years of Wartime Love Letters. NPR interviewed Boruff regarding her non-profit Merkel & Minor: Vets Helping Vets: A Class Act Production. She attended Burning Man 2012 and then climbed Wayna Picchu in Peru on her 71st birthday.

Read more about Kay’s writing journey here.


2 thoughts on ““Painting the Elephant Gold” by Kay Merkel Boruff

  1. Your images take me one place and then change direction toward another place. Thank you for that. I was born in an Army hospital and raised in the military. I facilitate writing workshops for veterans and their families. I was very moved when I read your bio, about your time in Vietnam and your husband. Thank you for what you do for the veterans.

  2. Leilani,

    Thank you for your comments and thank you for helping Veterans and their families process their experiences. Living outside the states in a war zone–and waiting at home for a loved one–changes your life. Most citizens have little knowledge of military life.

    I am posting a short essay about the writing of “Painting the Elephant Gold.” Life after war is, indeed, in one place and simultaneously in another place–life in a “zone of silence.”

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