Maurice Carlos Ruffin

Spring Everywhere Else
           after Ada Limon

My family is swimming in children.
During holiday visits, my parents
dump me into the play place
of my cousins where we talk
and tumble over one another,
a bucket of pond frogs.

The pleasure of family is
your nose, your eyes, your laugh
echoing off ceilings and windowpanes.
Adults come to the door to check in.
They look down on us like
uncertain chefs, trying to decide
if the meal will turn out okay
and if it doesn’t, whether that’s their fault.

All my animals were bachelors.
In my life, I had two parakeets
and two mutts, but never at the
same time. They all wind up
in the backyard beneath the same soil
where my friends and I shoot magic
at each other and say, “ha ha, you missed.”
I see a mama feline pick up
a kitten by the scruff of its neck
and wonder how it is
that the little one is uninjured.
But to be handled is to be injured.
All of us little kids are just
thin saucers in the soapy hands of others.

I’ll never be a father.
Despite my good height
and strong jawline.
My mild-mannered nature
or stockpile of degrees.

I’m tempted to pat myself on
my artistic back and talk about
choosing the less followed path.
But this isn’t a heroic path.
It’s simply a path that I’m on.

Back when the circus had elephants
someone lifted me onto the gray
skin of one with wet, dark eyes.
They led us around a velvet covered ring.

After the ride, I pushed my feet through
the hay covered ground and
watched the magnificent creature
wait for its next masters.
If that elephant longed for its
children, it didn’t tell me.



Maurice Carlos Ruffin is the author of The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You, a New York Times Editor’s Choice that was also longlisted for the Story Prize. His first book, We Cast a Shadow, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the PEN America Open Book Prize. Ruffin is the winner of several literary prizes, including the Iowa Review Award in fiction. A New Orleans native, Ruffin is a professor of Creative Writing at Louisiana State University, and the 2020-2021 John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi.