Wednesday, March 27, 2019


Remember the afternoon we spent
on Tesla-9?
It was after the accident.
(Are you, like me, measuring time now
before and after the accident?)
We didn’t know what would
become of us,
but they were still investigating,
and for the moment we were both free.

You came to my quarters,
armed with a picnic basket of all things,
and asked if I wanted to go
have some lunch in the desert.
I had been lying in bed all day,
trying to read a book
but getting stuck on the same paragraph
at the top of page 48.
I guess I was trying to practice
for extended confinement.
Every time I closed my eyes,
I smelled the acrid smoke 
and heard the echoes of screams.

“Isn’t there supposed to be
an acid storm?” I asked.
“Does it matter?” you shrugged.
“No, not really,” I replied.
If we had wanted to have
a nice picnic,
under a blue “sky,”
sitting on soft green turf,
watching the kids fly their aerokites
and chasing the Teslan spotted geese,
we would have gone to the park
in the center of the biodome,
but we would have been vulnerable
to staring, angry eyes,
insults muttered under our neighbors’ breath,
perhaps hurled at us at top volume,
perhaps even garbage thrown at us,
or other types of violence…
we had experienced it all before.
The yellow desert, with its acid rain
and iron vipers and venomous spitting hawks,
was silent and peaceful
and oddly forgiving.

We took your cruiser,
turned the radio off
and hovered in silence.
You stared straight ahead,
and I stared out the window to my right.
The farther we got out of the city,
the easier it was to breathe.
It was easy to forget how heavy
was the guilt sitting on my chest
every waking moment.
“It was an accident,” you’d remind me.
I’d remember to exhale.

That day, you rested your hand
lightly on my knee,
and we ate standard ration sandwiches—
I think egg salad and chicken were our choices—
and we watched the lightning dance on the horizon.
The raindrops fell on us,
a sizzling sound on our desert exploration suits.
“We’d better get back into the cruiser,” I said.
And you agreed.

Suddenly, you grabbed my arm and held me back.
“Wait!” you cried.
I realized that I had been just about to step
right on the back of a spiny shrieker,
which was fleeing the storm.
The spines on its back would have gone
right through my boot,
piercing the sole of my foot
and releasing its deadly venom.
And I would have been dead in minutes,
if not for you.
And it was not the first time you had saved me.
So if you ever wondered,
that was the moment I made up my mind.

A few days later, when I was interrogated,
I took all the blame and told them of your bravery,
told them that you were too humble
to take credit for anything positive
that came out of the accident.
You were too good a leader
and wanted to take responsibility.
So in the end, you were promoted,
which you deserved.
I was administratively reassigned
after a brief confinement.
I guess I deserved that too.

Now I’m on a planet
with endless diamond rain,
so I don’t get much fresh air these days,
but when I close my eyes,
I see the yellow cliffs in the distance,
one sun setting as the other rises,
your hand resting gently on my knee.

Dispatch from the Outbreak Zone: A Found Poem

Hearing voices,
extreme paranoia,
psychotic disorders.
much more work
is needed.
Tiny particles
get past the lungs
into the blood
on to the brain,
lead to inflammation.
Experts suggest
keeping away
from the busiest roads,
It is impossible to be sure.
The findings are concerning.
It should be borne in mind
researchers could not know
when participants were where.
The findings should be replicated
before firm conclusions can be drawn.
Episodes of psychosis,
seek urgent medical advice.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

A couple of years ago,
you could buy F. Scott Fitzgerald’s
childhood home in St. Paul, Minnesota.
They were selling it for $650,000,
and doesn’t that sound like a bargain
for a place where F. Scott Fitzgerald
spent his youth?
I imagine he did a lot of merry
Minnesota things, like sledding and
throwing snowballs and letting the snowflakes
melt on his tongue. 
He could have been doing these things in June,
I don’t know.
Those people of winter are aliens to me.
If I had had an extra $650,000,
I would have bought F. Scott Fitzgerald’s
childhood home
and turned it into a writer’s retreat,
but that money never fell into my lap
because money never falls into my lap,
and I remain 400 miles away.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019


Olivia was thirteen,
and everything her mother said
was embarrassing and stupid.
Her mother picked her up from volleyball practice
wearing an old sweatshirt and leggings,
and Olivia didn’t talk to her
for the rest of the night.

She didn’t mind her dad as much,
but she saw him one weekend a month,
if he didn’t have some work thing.
He was dating some woman named Carolyn.
Carolyn was very pretty,
and her house was very clean.
She smiled at Olivia with clenched teeth.

Olivia’s mother sang along to the radio in the car.
Olivia sighed loudly,
and her mother sang a bit more quietly
and then stopped.
“You’re so grouchy all the time now,”
her mother accused.
“Whatever,” Olivia replied.
She picked at the peeling pink nail polish
on her right index finger.

Patient Zero

Everyone says you should
throw out your old make-up.
But I love that lipstick color,
now discontinued.
And that eye shadow palette
cost me $40.
And it was never a problem for me
until the day I dug in my make-up bag
and found black mascara,
bought on clearance at the pharmacy
about three years ago.
It was the office Christmas party,
one of the few occasions
I’ll bother with eyeliner
and foundation.
I put on the mascara
like an amateur.
It was a bit gloppy,
but it did the job.
I went to the party
and managed to drip tomato sauce
on my new black dress,
but I didn’t drink too much,
and Tom from Accounting said hi
when he waited in line with me 
at the coat check
at the end of the night.
He even remembered my name!
About two days later,
I had a stabbing pain in my right eye.
Bloodshot, swollen.
I called in sick
and lay in bed all day,
warm compress on my eye.
The eye infection
turned into a throbbing migraine,
and I wound up with a fever of 103.
Freezing and shivering,
I wrapped myself tight in my blanket.
I couldn’t even find peace in my sleep.
Delirious and dehydrated,
I couldn’t count the hours or the days.
My cat peered at me from above,
either out of concern
or curiosity…
had his owner died
and could he start eating her yet?
My sister kept trying to call,
and a few days later I was able to speak to her.
“Half the city’s shut down!” she cried.
“Everyone’s got this terrible bug.
The only restaurant open
is the Chinese place down the block
that never closes.
Business is booming for them!
The emergency rooms are all full,
but they only want to see the worst cases.
Everyone else is supposed to just stay at home
and try to wait it out.
Old people are dropping like flies.”
“Oh my God!” I cried.
“Could it be…the mascara?”
She heard me out as I described my suspicions.
“That’s silly,” she assured me.
“It’s some kind of bacterial infection
that’s going around.
Antibiotic-resistant, though.
You want me to bring you some chicken soup?
I’ll leave it on your doorstep
along with some sports drinks.
Do you like fruit punch or orange?”
She’s right, I told myself.
It can’t be my stupid three-year-old mascara
causing this epidemic.
I finally turned on the television,
watched a news report
about the governor declaring an emergency.
I couldn’t help but be haunted,
when I imagined myself
at the office Christmas party,
rubbing my eye
and then picking up the handle of the ladle
sitting in the punch bowl.