Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Hello and Welcome!

If you're one of the five people I imagine will visit this site at least once, I'm glad you're here!  A couple of notes:

  • Please bear with me re: any formatting issues.  It's been at least four years since I've messed around with Blogger.  I imagine that my theme and fonts will be less lame in the future.  I just want to get things up and running asap or this will be one of those passing fancies I'm too busy for mid-February.  If you see any obvious problems, let me know!
  • I imagine that I will update at least once a week, probably more to start.
  • Most of these poems were written during weekly meetings of the Schaumburg Poetry Group (hi, guys!) in response to prompts, so much of the content is purely fictional and not about YOU or HIM, per se.
  • I don't care about meter and have never cared about it, even when it was my business as an English major to care about it.
  • I have been writing creatively for about as long as I can write, yet SOMEHOW continue to languish in complete obscurity.  I am proud to say that my work has been rejected by many of the best publications in America, and I look forward to collecting new rejections from poetry magazines and websites in the future. 
  • If you would like me to link to your creative endeavor, leave me a comment!
  • Questions?  Concerns?  I can do almost nothing about the current American political situation.  I will delete spam comments with joyful abandon.  I will obsessively check for comments.  I am already filled with self-doubt.

First, Some Good News!

Hi everyone,

I just thought I'd take a moment to toot my own horn, as it were.

My poem "Home" was selected to be read at the Jersey City Writers' "Genre Night," on April 21, 2018, which kicked off the Jersey City Art Council's Poetry Festival Week. 

My poem "What Gets Left Behind" has been published in the Summer 2020 issue of Kaleidotrope.

My poem "The Last Girl" has been published in Issue 4 of Arsenika.

You can now read my poem "Lethargy" on The Pangolin Review.

Also, my poem "Maida Vale" has been accepted by The Wells Street Journal for their April 2019 issue.

One verse of a haiku series, "The T-12 Chronicles" will be published in Issue 74 of Leading Edge Magazine as an "Honorable Mention" in their "Sci-Faiku" (sci-fi haiku) contest.

My micropoems "Tethered" and "Horsehead Nebula" have been published in Issue 2 of Black Bough Poetry. (page 37!)

My poems "Diagnosis" and "The First of the Plagues" have been published in Issue 4.2 of Mineral Lit Mag.

My poem "Stasis" was recently published at Pendemic. And you should submit your pandemic-related work there too!

"The Xi Movement" has been published at Rejection Letters.

You can find "Zoom" at ang(st)'s Distanced 2.0 project.

"Cotton Candy, 1983" has been posted in the inaugural issue of Perhappened Mag. I'm thrilled to announce that this poem has been nominated by Perhappened for Sundress Publications' "Best of the Net" Award for Poetry!

"bean sí" will be published in Twist in Time Mag.

"External Beam" has been published in the "Heatwave" issue of Perhappened Mag

My poem "Uninhabited" will be included as part of the Tales from the Trail YouTube project.

My micropoem "Momento Mori" will be published soon in Versification

My poem "A Bit of a Meltdown" recently found a home with Crow and Cross Keys, which will be posting its debut issue on October 31, 2020.

I'll be sure to post links to my work as they get published!

Also, if you'd like to follow me on Twitter, here I am.  I am not, in real life, a dog.  I should probably have some kind of professional author Twitter profile, but that's more work than I want to put into that site right now.

--Karen

Buy me a Ko-Fi?

Hi everyone,

I drink a LOT of tea at the Corner Bakery every week to produce these poems that you (hopefully) enjoy!  If you are interested in sponsoring my tea-drinking/poetry production, please visit my Ko-Fi site at https://ko-fi.com/karensteiger.  Please don't feel obligated to do so, even if you know me in real life.  :)

Karen

Reply All

Some of us knowingly snickered
when we saw the email titled “Dress Code” in our inboxes.
One of those “friendly reminders” that Yasmin often sent,
not singling anyone out, but you knew there was but one offender.
“Please no tank tops, flip flops, leggings, or torn jeans,” 
she demanded—gently, no admonitions or threats.
Wendy certainly meant to send her snarky reply to Nancy or Scott,
maybe even Elaine in Marketing.
But instead, she tragically selected “Reply All”
and wrote, “This is what that cow, Jessica,
is wearing Right. Now. She hasn’t worn real pants in six months.
Her shirts never even cover her ass!
Must be nice to be a VP’s niece.”
This was followed by a number of laughing and vomiting emojis.
The normal buzz of the office slowly died,
as everyone, office-wide, read this electronic missive.
A sickly silence, punctuated by some shocked murmurs
and wide-eyed whispers hidden behind hands.
And Wendy, when she realized what she had done,
was so distraught that her body temperature rose uncontrollably,
causing her to flush and sweat.
Dizzy with embarrassment and fever,
she whimpered, “I don’t feel so well,”
then literally melted into a puddle of liquid flesh, blood and viscera
right at her desk, a cloud of steam rising above what had been our coworker.
There were screams and gasps, and someone set off the fire alarm.
We stood outside our building, shedding tears and exchanging hugs.
Steve made sure to get a good look at her remains
and had a small audience gathered around him,
describing what was left of her shoes, her hair.
Jess walked right past us to her car,
drove away and never returned.
Wendy’s whole workstation had to be replaced,
and only the most temporary of interns were assigned that space.
Several days later, we received an email from Yasmin,
entitled, “Wendy Yates Memorial Details and New Email Policy.”

Tumbling

I’ve been falling in my dreams lately.
I don’t know what the context is.
I’m just plummeting, the world a blur,
my stomach somewhere in my throat.
Nothing to grab at to slow my descent.
And I really feel it,
I really feel myself falling,
so I call out in a panic,
“helphelphelphelphelphelphelp!”
And my husband gets annoyed,
because I’ve just woken him up
and terrified him with my cries,
but I’m actually fine,
just lying there on my back.
And when I am about to crash land,
my eyes flutter open,
but I don’t feel safe,
not for the rest of the day.

My Favorite Sweater

I’ve probably had it about twenty years now,
my favorite sweater.
It is the color of cinnamon, chili powder,
tart cherries, the leaves of the Japanese maple.
It’s thick and warm and protects me well from the slicing wind.
But it’s a zip-up hoodie,
so it also can be easily removed
when the afternoon sun streams in 
hot and bright through the window,
and my back starts to sweat.
My first dog, Cleo, chewed up the bottoms of the pockets,
after I had accidentally left dog treats there.
So I can’t carry anything in my favorite sweater,
and I travel light.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Breathe

Having crash-landed on the small blue planet,
full of life but short on intelligence,
Rakmar felt very alone.
He stared up at a light blue sky, 
dotted with white clouds,
so very different from the reddish-orange atmosphere
stretching over his home world.
He knew that no one here could speak his language,
biologically could not speak his language, that is,
due to a lack of speech appendages.
No one here could see this world the way he could,
could perceive the colors he saw,
would know the ancient stories of his tribe and nation,
would understand the mechanisms
that lifted his ship high into the heavens,
traveling faster than starlight.

With no way to communicate with his own kind,
Rakmar focused on survival,
keeping his breathing apparatus functioning
(for he did not know whether he could inhale this alien air
and survive),
rationing his food supplies,
and staying hidden from the dominant ones,
the short bipedal creatures who traveled in wheeled vehicles
with filthy internal combustion engines
and spent most of their time staring at small handheld devices,
the purpose of which Rakmar had not yet discovered.

One evening, as the nearest star set at the western horizon,
his favorite time of day,
when the flaming oranges, pinks, and violets
made the sky appear, briefly, like that on his home planet,
Rakmar realized that his breathing apparatus 
had ceased to function,
and he did not have the appropriate tools and supplies to repair it.
So he removed his helmet,
exposing his face for the first time to this strange new air,
and deeply inhaled.

Menagerie

After years of worrying about global warming and meteor strikes
and pandemics and war and terrorism and wildfires and exploding frogs,
humans forgot to worry about what would occur during an alien invasion,
what would happen when they trounced our pitiful attempts at resistance,
what would happen when they killed billions of us
and put the rest of us in zoos across the galaxy.

I was put in the Morgloch Research and Living Habitat Facility,
somewhere many millions of light years away from Earth,
away from everyone I had ever known in my old life,
and in an exhibit with about twenty other humans
and one misidentified Grodothian.
We were fed well,
had a large living space
with several communal homes,
a rough approximation 
of what humans would want for themselves in a shelter,
but the Keepers didn’t really ask us our opinions.
There were no interior walls in our homes,
not even around what I’ll call the bathroom,
but it’s fine,
we made do with what we got.
We had a park with some lovely oaks and maples and green Earth grass,
but also some pink puffy trees that seemed to be covered in fur.
These trees had eyes, and they breathed loudly through their trunks.
It’s nice that they gave us the spot for recreation,
but they weren’t really fooling anyone.

We were supposed to all be friends in our exhibit, I guess.
They wanted for us to pair off and reproduce.
And I think their experiment was largely a success,
except for me.
I looked at my fellow humans and the one Grodothian,
and I saw greedy, grasping beasts,
fighting every day over our daily rations,
even though there was always more than enough,
and we could probably have asked for more, if we really wanted it.
Like you’d find in a seventh grade classroom,
there was a strict social hierarchy.
Or it’s probably more accurate to say that it was a solar system, 
with Chase Goodwin and Miriam Roskell as twin stars
and the rest of us orbiting them at varying distances.
Surprisingly, the Grodothian was closer to them than anyone else,
but I was Pluto,
icy, distant,
not even considered a planet.

Diana Cho and I kind of paired off for a while, as friends.
We laughed at our fellow captives,
their pitiful attempts at maintaining some kind of control in their lives,
their “house rules,”
their “negotiations” with the Keepers.
Then something happened.
I still don’t know what.
Maybe it was something I said,
or something I did,
or something I didn’t do,
but Diana started avoiding me.
She and Miriam were the ones laughing now,
and if I caught her eye,
she’d give me the same look
you might give to a centipede scurrying in the bathtub
or that container of leftovers in the back of your fridge,
the one you don’t even remember putting in there,
its contents now green and grey and white and furry.
And that was the end of that.

The Keepers removed me from the exhibit one day
and used their invasive methods to communicate with me
and asked me why I “wasn’t integrating.”
“I don’t know,” I told them, honestly.
“We just don’t get along.”
The Keepers didn’t understand.
We were all the same species
(they still hadn’t realized their mistake about the Grodothian),
from the same part of our home planet, even.
We spoke the same language,
weren’t that far apart in age,
and were free to mate in whatever combinations we preferred.
What could possibly be the problem?
“Some people are just better off by themselves,” I said.
“I’ve always been like that.
Even before you all…arrived, 
I wasn’t that good at making friends,
and I never dated anyone for very long.”
The Keepers were unsatisfied with this explanation,
and I was informed I was to be immediately transferred 
to the Ferlanian Living Habitat,
located in a different galaxy.
I didn’t even get to say goodbye to Diana Cho,
but I wasn’t that broken up about it.

When I arrived at my new home,
I realized there had been some mistake.
I was in an exhibit full of Grodothians,
but it wound up being okay, actually.
They were accepting and welcoming,
and we all had a lot in common.
So it was better than I thought it would be,
about as good as anyone could expect.

Tempest

Everyone had a bad year in 2020,
but Ryan was particularly afflicted.
After being struck by lightning on a golf course,
he died for 42 seconds
before being shocked back to life,
and then it turned out
he could create weather systems
just above his head,
but he couldn’t control this ability very well.
“You’re destroying my home!” 
his young wife shrieked,
fed up with the rain ruining her hardwood floors
in the living room,
the tornado that ripped apart the master bathroom,
sending her prized claw-footed white bathtub
flying into a neighbor’s home,
the blizzard in the bedroom
that buried the carpet under two feet of snow.
They had received nasty letters
from the homeowners’ association
and denials of claims from their insurance company.
“You just can’t live here anymore,”
his wife sadly told him.
“Not until they figure out how to fix…
your problem.”
“But where am I to go?” he cried,
his arms outstretched in a beseeching posture.
But she had no answer for him.
“I told you it was stupid to go golfing.”
She finally said it.
“With the pandemic and everything…”
“It was outside!” he cried.
“Brett and I barely talked to each other,
and we didn’t even use our flasks!”
There was a loud clap of thunder above them both,
and his wife silently pointed at the door.
They say that Ryan spent the rest of that year
living in a tent,
camping out from place to place,
eventually evicted by the police
when he caused flash floods, damaging hail, derechos
and, famously, one particularly violent haboob.
He’d stand defiantly in the middle of his storms,
holding out his arms in a Jesus pose,
hoping that if he could once again be struck by lightning,
this gift could be returned.

Cold Water

The sudden plunge.
Water in your ears and your eyes,
rushing down your throat.
You cough, choke, struggle to rise.
Your clothes, soaked, weigh you down.
Your warmth is defenseless against the icy current,
it carries your breath and your body away.
Your heart is shocked into a new, uneven rhythm.
Panic as you flail your limbs,
search for buoyancy.
Cold water is the look in his eyes,
the sensation of his hand pressed firmly to your back,
the forceful push,
the abrupt end.


Tea Time

The kettle screaming,
the steam perfumed by cardamom and cinnamon.
A splash of cold milk,
a swirling white galaxy.
Warm your hands, fix your soul.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Blue Tastes Like...

Sky-colored cotton candy, sugar dissolving to nothing in an instant.

Bright blue raspberry snow cone juice, dying your lips and tongue and teeth.

It doesn’t really taste that much like raspberry.

It’s its own flavor.

Blue also tastes like the shaved ice in that snow cone, crunchy and cold.

A sickly sweet alcoholic drink with a paper umbrella resting on the rim of the glass.

A glob of toothpaste, setting your mouth aflame 

with arctic fresh sparkling mint flavor.

Blue tastes like nothing natural on this earth,

except for the pop of juicy blueberries between your molars, sweet and tart.

Two Spice Poems

Cinnamon

 

Cinnamon is the smell of the things

I’ve lately been giving myself permission to do.

Sipping slowly on a cup of chai,

a spicy cloud of steam rising gently from my cup.

A sprinkle of cinnamon over the top of a blueberry cobbler,

baking sticky and bubbling in the oven.

Stirring a small pile of cinnamon to form the arms of a galaxy

in a universe of applesauce.

 

Chili Powder and Cumin

 

Weeknight dinner,

two tablespoons of chili powder,

one tablespoon of cumin.

Chop the onion with teary, stinging eyes.

Brown the ground turkey,

mince the garlic.

Add the red bell pepper,

the diced sweet potato.

This one-pot meal,

but still too many dishes to do afterwards.

 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Lumbricus

When I was a child,

there was a large, grassy vacant lot

next to my parents’ home

where I spent all the daylight hours,

running and pretending and exploring,

playing with my childhood best friend

and all the kids who lived on our block.

In summer we harvested the dark purple berries

from the branches of the mulberry tree,

wishing that they tasted better.

In fall we amassed rolling hills of crunchy brown leaves

and leapt into them, arms spread wide,

sending the leaves scattering with a whoosh,

laughing as we rose to dive again.

In winter I forged a path with red vinyl snowsuit legs

and feet growing chilly in the season’s new snow boots.

One spring, I ran through the field alone,

playing some game with imaginary friends or horses,

and I stumbled upon a large hole in the ground,

which was filled with large, writhing, naked worms.

I stared at it, frozen, as though it were a portal to hell,

then ran back home,

as fast as I could.

I quickly returned to playing there without fear,

and I never encountered this horror again,

never understood what I saw,

wondered sometimes if it was just a dream.

 

When I was older,

still a child

but too old to play so freely,

the lot was sold, and a large house was built there.

A wooden privacy fence was built around the backyard.

I hardly see any of the grass I used to roll around in,

where I’d lie on my back, watching the clouds drift by.

That mulberry tree is long gone.

But somewhere, maybe just under our neighbors’ basement

or deep underground,

under their deck porch or propane grill,

something mysterious and dark twists and thrashes,

a Cthulhu or land-Kraken waiting to emerge

from the depths of Griffith, Indiana.

Stars Fell on Alabama

The stars fell on me last night,

in a very literal sense.

The farther you go out in space,

the weirder things get.

I was pulled into an invisible vortex,

and all of space and time and matter

started bending around me,

and the metal of my ship was tearing and twisting,

falling apart with hellish groans.

And I should have been destroyed then,

and maybe I was,

but just when I thought

I’d be ripped into ribbons,

everything went white and silent,

then I opened my eyes

and it was 1978,

and I was two years old again,

in my parents’ old house

in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Everything seemed so large and strange.

A sunbeam poured through my bedroom window.

A softly droning box fan

made the white lacy curtains flutter,

and a dog was barking in the yard next door.

I had just woken up from a nap,

and I was determined to get out of my crib,

so I stood up on the little mattress,

threw one leg over the white railing,

then the other,

then slowly lowered myself down

to the floor,

soft brown carpet beneath my bare feet.

And I toddled out to the living room

to find my mother,

who was drinking a cup of coffee

in the kitchen,

and she looked at me with surprise,

amused but also a bit alarmed,

“How did you get here?” she asked.

And did I remember that right?
Is that what she said?

How could that have happened in 1978?

As soon as I doubted this vision,

the noise and the gravity and the spiraling

all came back to me

for just a moment,

but then I was through,

the birth was over.

And though I didn’t know where I was,

my ship was in one piece,

and I was in one piece,

and it was very, very black and still.

I could only see a few stars ahead of me,

we bewildered few

who had survived the journey.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Expulsion

On August 23rd, 1986, at 5:38 p.m.,
Brittany Harris was cast out
of Girl Scout Troop #835.
Mrs. O’Brien, the troop leader,
called Brittany’s mother
to pick her daughter up
from the meeting that had taken place
in the basement of Jefferson Elementary School.
“It’s her third strike, hon, I’m sorry,”
Mrs. O’Brien explained to Mrs. Harris,
her words a little muffled
by the cigarette dangling out the corner of her mouth.
The craft table had been upset,
the glue and the glitter were all over, and
it was going to be a real pain to clean.
Brittany had made Tish Lopez cry and, even worse,
had slapped Hannah Vaughn right across the face.
“I’m not saying those girls are angels,” Mrs. O’Brien added,
“but we can’t have violence in the troop.
Besides, their mothers are going to lose their minds
when they hear about it,
and I’m pretty sure Tish’s uniform is ruined.
I just don’t have any other choice.”
“No, I understand,” Mrs. Harris sighed.
She wasn’t even angry about it.
Brittany had hated the troop meetings,
looked at the sparkly crafts with contempt,
didn’t speak to the other girls,
never sang the troop songs,
cried so hard on her first overnight camping trip
(which wasn’t even really camping
because they all stayed in a cabin)
that she threw up,
despised going door to door to peddle cookies…
it obviously wasn’t a good fit.
Still, Brittany looked downtrodden
when her mother came to retrieve her,
eyes cast to the ground,
shoulders slumped.
“It’s not fair,” she announced
by way of greeting
as her mother stepped out of
of their 1981 orange Ford LTD.
“Hannah started it, and Tish...”
“I know,” her mother replied.
“Let’s just get home.”
Mrs. Harris didn’t want to run into the other mothers
in that parking lot,
hands resting on hips,
narrowed eyes,
after all,
what have you been doing wrong to raise such a child?
She didn’t want to force her daughter to apologize
to those other girls,
their crocodile tears dried onto smug smiles.
There would be plenty of time for that someday.
Brittany was always going to have a hard time of it,
whether it was a Girl Scout troop or gym class
or a soccer team or a church choir.
She brushed an unruly hair off her child’s face.
Brittany had gotten herself all worked up,
and her forehead was too hot.
“You’re being punished,” her mother warned,
“for making a mess and smacking a girl
and all the rest of it,
but I don’t feel like cooking tonight.
Let’s just get a pizza,
and talk about it later, okay?”
Brittany nodded
and rested her heavy forehead against the cool glass
of the passenger side window.

Self-Portrait

The famous artist’s final painting
was found in an old wooden chest
that had been buried in a vast green field.
Unlike his previous works of delicate natural beauty,
this piece was the product of a turbulent mind,
waves of angry reds attacking sorrowful blues,
stabbed onto the canvas by a worn brush.
Anyone who stood before it
had the uncanny sensation of falling,
and most people would unconsciously reach out
for a chair or a table or a railing,
something to steady themselves.
The picture bore his signature,
but its authenticity was in doubt
because it was so very unlike anything else
the artist had ever made.
He had vanished from public life
in the three years before his death,
and clearly he had gone mad
or had been possessed by an evil spirit
to create such a thing,
if it was not a blasphemous forgery.
The artist’s cousin, who was in charge of his estate,
was afraid of what harm the painting
would cause to the artist’s reputation
(and future sales).
“Destroy it!” she commanded,
but her assistant hesitated.
He too had known the artist in life
and could not bear to throw the canvas on the fire.
So he hid it in his own attic,
waiting for a time when it could be better understood.
Half a century later,
the painting was declared the artist’s masterpiece.
Unlike his trivial, meaningless little landscapes,
this was a true expression of a tormented soul.
There were lingering rumors about the piece, though,
when one owner, and then two, met their untimely demise
through murder,
when a museum displaying it burned to the ground
with this painting as the only survivor,
when a visitor attempted suicide in front of it.
It was stolen, and then recovered,
and finally misplaced,
then forgotten.
And the artist’s pleasanter pictures
came back in style.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Taking the High Road

As they pulled her out of the twisted knot of metal,
the firefighters treaded on crunching shards
with their rubber boots,
and her car’s horn continued to blare in distress.
As she waited for rescue,
barely in this world,
she stared empty-eyed at the deflated air bag
in front of her, smeared with her make up and blood,
like a clown’s shroud of Turin.
She could no longer tell where her car had ended
and his had begun,
she couldn’t see him,
couldn’t hear anything other than the unceasing honk
and the firefighters’ rescue tools,
couldn’t reach her cell phone to call him or text,
saying, “Funny meeting you here.”
She had no energy to speak to the rescuer
who loomed over her occasionally
to give her a thumbs up or brief words of encouragement,
couldn’t even raise the corner of her lips into a smile.
“At least he finally said I was right,” she thought,
closing her eyes and exhaling satisfaction.

Fatal Error

Shirley mostly kept to herself at work,
sipping her tea alone in her office.
She always, always wore a sweater,
even in July,
chilled to the bone by air conditioning
when everyone else flaunted the dress code
with bare shoulders and flip flops.
She didn’t gossip with the girls half her age,
was never asked to happy hours
or ridiculous activities
like dodgeball leagues or axe throwing
with the rest of her team,
and she thanked God for that.

But every other Wednesday,
Craig stopped by her office,
asked her if she needed any help
with her computer.
At first she’d abruptly say no
and turn back to her work,
but then he started asking her
questions, just simple things:
like, “How’s your day going?”
or “Crazy weather, huh?”
Then he saw the book
she had been reading during lunch,
the third in a series,
and excitedly discussed the plot and the characters
and how the movies were not nearly as good,
and before she knew it,
half an hour had passed,
and it was the longest anyone had spoken to her
in that office for years.

So Shirley started to look forward to Craig’s visits,
found herself dressing up a bit every other Wednesday,
maybe putting on a pair of earrings
or a bit of lip gloss
or even letting her hair down.
She wasn’t great at spontaneous conversation,
so she would look up topics she thought
he would enjoy talking about,
and before she knew it,
he would greet her every other Wednesday
with a cheerful, “Hey, Shirl!”

Then one Friday,
Craig unexpectedly stopped by,
when she had been feeling ill,
with a throbbing headache
and a sinus infection.
She had woken up late that morning,
so her hair was unwashed,
and she was wearing wrinkled khakis
and the same dress shirt from the day before.
“Hi, Shirley,” he said,
“Oh!” she replied, dropping a pen
and brushing back her hair.
She had a coughing fit then,
and her nose started running,
and she desperately waved off his concern
as she searched for a Kleenex.

“I’m glad you’re here,” he said
with a pained expression.
“I just wanted to say goodbye
because your company has contracted
with a new IT consulting firm,
so I guess I won’t be seeing you anymore.”
She didn’t know what to say then
and faked another coughing fit
so he wouldn’t notice the tears
that had sprung to her eyes.
“Well, it’s been nice working with you,” he said,
before she had the chance to speak again,
and then he walked away.

A few weeks later,
on a Wednesday that should have been
the best day of her week,
after a long meeting
during which her workload was increased
and her deadlines were shortened,
and the least experienced coworker was promoted,
Shirley sat in her office,
no longer cold,
inflamed with the injustice of it all,
and she went to her spam folder,
found the most obvious malicious email,
clicked a few links,
and spread a vicious virus among all her contacts
and deleted permanently about three-fourths
of the files on the server.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Severance

You’re just not the right fit, he said,
his eyes already turned away,
staring at his computer screen
with a half-frown.
I had no use for dignity then,
pleaded for some kind of explanation,
something that I could do, anything.
If I’m not the right fit,
I could carve myself down,
force myself into the empty space,
maybe it would be just a little off,
but I could fit,
make myself fit.
He was annoyed then,
He hadn’t been expecting argument,
bargaining, stammering pleas.
He thought maybe I’d disappear,
like when you would turn off old TVs,
and the picture would shrink into a tiny little square
and vanish.
You aren’t the right fit, he repeated.
It was immutable, this fit.
He had thought everyone knew that.
The behaviors I promised to change—
asking the wrong questions,
laughing at the wrong times,
making silly mistakes—
were just symptoms of the inherent wrongness of me.
Implied in this declaration of disharmony
was the hope that I would fit somewhere else,
but that was not his concern.
He had his assistant come in then.
She was really good at sweeping away
the misshapen and the discarded,
gently herding you along
with soft condolences and chitchat,
then once you were out the door,
turning around and leaving you there,
alone, blinking in the blinding sunlight.

The Scientist

Do you want to find the door?
It’s above, below, around, and beyond you.
It’s always open.
I have been there,
outside the spectrum of your imagination,
where the universe is sketched by lost arts.
Hydrodynamics and quantum tectonics,
chemical philosophy and inert alchemy,
ideological absorption and biological refraction,
theoretical topography and genetic combustion.
Laws outside of physical laws,
endless solutions on offer but no questions.
Gravity looks pretty different there.
The sun beams black,
the grass and soil melt into puddles beneath your feet,
the clouds weep diamonds that shatter on your skin.
There are creatures there too,
sleek, white, blind.
Fast, much faster than you.
They have countless teeth but no voice.
They follow you back here,
but you’ll only see them when you close your eyes.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Sanctum

An amber eye against leathery matte black scales
opens halfway and then closes again.
The slight movement of a long tail
sends gold coins tumbling down
a mountain of riches.
Slow stretching of lazy feet,
admiring the claws as long and sharp
and deadly as teeth.
A golden sunbeam shining down into the den
warms the spiny back,
and the only sound besides a satisfied sigh
is a gentle breeze,
a welcome visitor from outside.
Then suddenly,
a crunching sound
on the hillside leading to the den,
the clanking of the silver armor
covering the tiny morsel inside.
The eye opens again, wide at first,
but then narrowed in annoyance.
Another greedy invader
with murderous intent,
who will soon become another
pile of bones to add to the collection.
The fire within the breast
ignites and smolders.