Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Olympian Flu

Pan was the cause
of the divine pandemic.
Zeus, that creepy old rapist,
finally fell dead off his Olympian throne,
and all the virgins of Greece cheered.
Hera caught the bug from Zeus
and passed it on to Aphrodite.
Aphrodite gave it to her son, Eros,
and he caused an outbreak
with his infected arrows.
Athena took to her bed
and napped for a thousand years.
Dionysius merely complained of a light cough
and drank wine sweetened with honey.
Meanwhile on Earth,
wars raged without divine protection,
the future could not be foretold,
and a young man,
who had been in love with a magical silver faun,
wandered lonely through the woods,
wondering where she had gone.


The interview went well,
I thought.
Then you pause for a moment,
your eyes skimming my resume,
and you ask,
why I left my former position?

Well, if you want me to be honest,
it was one of those things
where I resigned
and they didn’t fire me.
It seemed like the wisest choice
because otherwise
they might have pressed charges.

It was a normal Tuesday afternoon,
sunshine and blue sky 
filling the floor-to-ceiling windows.
We all had a deadline the next day,
so instead of chatting in the kitchenette,
we were furiously typing,
and the printer was spitting out
warm copies of our progress all day,
and we had had a meeting
that I thought had gone on a bit too long,
and I was feeling the pressure especially
because what my manager didn’t know
was that I hadn’t even started the project yet.

And not to sound egotistical,
but my part was crucial.
My part is always crucial,
even if someone else winds up
taking the credit
and getting the commission.
And I didn’t mean to procrastinate.
I don’t think of myself as a procrastinator,
but I just had a hard time getting this thing started,
and I was preoccupied with other things.
My mother being sick,
my dog with her diarrhea,
my husband being moody
and staring at his cell phone all night.

Not that that really is an excuse
for leaving things to the last minute,
but I just want to explain my state of mind,
having so much to do
in so little time
and the meeting going too long
and Monica kept sending those emails
“just checking in,”
and Lori and Sarah
sending all those inside joke emails,
hitting “reply all”
like anyone else cared,
and some construction project
going on outside
with a loud
Then my screen—my monitor—
went really dim,
for no reason at all,
and I could barely see anything,
and yes,
I tried turning it on and off again,
first the monitor,
then the whole computer,
then I tried adjusting the settings
with squinted eyes,
and I started to get a headache,
so I called Rick in IT,
but he wasn’t picking up his phone,
and I put in an urgent service ticket,
and no one was responding,
and I could feel my heart pounding faster,
and I felt a little dizzy
and realized that I hadn’t eaten anything all day.
I unplugged my monitor
and stared at the back of it
in a daze.

Monica decided at that moment
to “pop by” my office
to “see how I was doing with that report.”
So without thinking,
I hurled that monitor
in her direction,
and it loudly crashed onto the floor
near her feet.
Someone jokingly cried,
But there was no laughter,
only a cold silence.
They later told me
that I had screamed then too,
a terrible sound,
but I don’t remember it at all.

Monica pursed her lips,
turned around and walked away.
I was summoned to Tom’s office
and was told I’d be escorted out.
I only had time to grab my purse
and my potted cactus.
I was told that everything else
would be boxed up
and shipped to my house.
Suspiciously, a full package
of Milano cookies
in the second left-hand drawer of my desk
was missing, never to be seen again.

The owner of the company
had always liked me
so that was how I got that whole
“resigned, not fired” deal,
and they agreed not to harm
my future job prospects,
but that’s why I didn’t use them
as any of my references.

You are quiet for a moment,
then look down and shuffle some papers.
You thank me for my time
and say you'll get back to me soon.


It was four in the morning,
and we were out of cookies,
and the stores were all closed,
of course,
and even if they had been open,
I had already taken off
my pants and my bra,
so I laid on my back
and tried not to think of them:
chocolate chip,
peanut butter,
oatmeal raisin,
double chocolate chip,
white chocolate cranberry,
toffee chip,
sandwich cookies,
Girl Scout cookies,
Italian wedding cookies,
and so on.
Wide awake still
and now ravenous,
I raided my pantry
for possible ingredients.
I found
baking soda,
almond extract,
and an old box of raisins.
In the fridge
I had butter
and three eggs.
Not even working from a recipe,
in my madness,
I mixed all of these things
in a bowl,
til I thought it looked dough-like
and dropped spoonfuls onto
my one baking sheet.
I baked them at 325 degrees
for eight minutes
and then another five
and barely let them cool
before I scarfed them down.
They wound up being more bread
than cookie,
but they were warm and sweet,
and I felt almost sick
when I thought about how many
and how quickly I had eaten.
I made some coffee
and watched the sun rise.
A few cars were on the street already,
and I wondered,
where could they possibly be going?

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Number Fifteen

I needed some clones.
Who doesn’t?
A clone for working,
a clone for shopping,
a clone to get my oil changed,
a clone for cooking,
a clone for cleaning,
a clone for dog walking in the rain,
a clone for shoveling snow,
a clone for laundry—
make that three clones for laundry—
a clone for personal correspondence,
a clone to assist my elderly mother,
a clone to manage the finances and file the taxes,
a clone chauffer,
and maybe just a spare for emergencies.
This may sound like a lot,
but it’s important not to overload any one clone.
They didn’t require much in the way of maintenance
and were easily stored overnight in a garden shed.

I was then free to relax,
peruse a museum exhibit,
try that new restaurant,
see movies,
and live the orderly, productive life I always dreamed of.

For the most part,
it worked out really well.
Clones are becoming more and more popular
and more and more indispensible.
You’ve got the housework clones
and the road construction clones
and the childcare clones
and the retail clones…
I could go on.
I enjoyed all of my clones,
treated them fairly,
used positive reinforcement,
and tried to motivate them,
give them a sense of real purpose.
It’s not just about scrubbing a toilet, Number Five,
it’s a small but crucial piece of a bigger picture,
it’s about doing one’s part,
taking pride in a job well done.

That last clone, though,
the spare—Number Fifteen—
she was a problem.
Not always having a job to do,
not always knowing her role to play,
she didn’t always want to take on the tasks I assigned.
“Isn’t that better suited to Number Four?” she’d ask.
Or “Isn’t Number Nine unassigned as well?”
She also had very unclonelike impulses
to do all sorts of things in her spare time,
things that I would never choose to do myself,
and who ever heard of a clone
with outside interests or hobbies?

One day, Number Fifteen asked if I would permit her
to spend the evening at the movie theater.
A clone at the movies!
“By yourself?” I asked.
“That’s absurd!”
Only companion clones go the movies
with their Sources.
I didn’t even know if it would be allowed.
“Not by myself,” she replied quietly.
Friends, my clone—
my spare clone—
wanted to go on a date!
A date with another clone!

It was completely unheard of
and probably illegal,
so of course I forbid it.
I had to then assign her more chores,
like washing the baseboards,
even if it annoyed my Cleaning Clone.
Her attitude became sullen,
and her work was frankly poor.
I explained to her
that I try to be kind and fair and understanding.
Of course she wouldn’t always enjoy all her tasks.
She exists because I didn’t want to do these things myself.
But I couldn’t have her upsetting her sisters,
and if she couldn’t adapt,
I’d have to send her to the Local Office,
where she would be repurposed,
sent wherever she was required,
to perform whatever task was necessary,
separated from all her sisters
and all she had ever known.

She appeared to agree,
but that thankless clone ran away one night,
aided by Number Eight and Number Ten,
a betrayal I never would have foreseen.
It was a real nightmare
and embarrassing, to say the least,
to call the police and report a missing clone,
to inform the Local Office of the incident,
to have Number Eight and Number Ten repurposed
and to explain why I needed three more clones.

Night Owl

wide awake at three a.m.,
my neighborhood is still.
Even the teenager across the street,
broken curfew,
is home now.
I watched him park his car,
headlights off,
and sneak into his house
through the side door.
A few minutes later,
his bedroom upstairs was briefly illuminated
and then darkened for good.
A fat raccoon,
clutching some piece of garbage in its mouth,
lucky treasure hunter,
darts across the road.
Mars is bright tonight,
ruling first one piece of the sky
and then moving to another.
I turn again to the television,
looking for company,
but finding only infomercials
promising eternal youth and smoother skin,
questionable careers in real estate,
dire warnings of identity fraud and credit card debt,
and I think I kind of want that air fryer.
I mute the TV,
but let the images flicker
against my eyelids.
I feel a deep ache in my bones
that no pill can ease,
and my mind refuses to slow,
to-do lists and what if’s
spiraling out of control.
a cricket rants ceaselessly,
but I don’t hear a reply.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Stream of Confidence

I tried to thundersing once,
when I was a child,
but I was mocked
by a picklelicking cacklebird,
and the sound wiggleknocked
through my head,
my pounding heart
nothing but a ragetoy,
wish-wash thunk
wish-wash thunk.
So you must forgive me
for my shyshut eyes,
and my triptrap words.
I’ve never really felt
kickpunky like the other girls.
I can’t whirlsplatter my way
into someone else’s glorydream.
You just have to accept
my self-light.
You either get it, or you don’t.


You flee your life one evening
walking down a moonlit forest trail.
Fat Douglas firs,
ancient Egyptian pyramids of the forest
with silver-green needles
scraping the sky,
line the path.
They rub shoulders with
slender, ragged western hemlocks
and bigleaf maples,
their gold-dipped autumn leaves
black now in the night.
And you stop, close your eyes,
and breathe them all in,
and they breathe in you.

The forest welcomes you
but makes no accommodation.
Hardened roots stick out of the ground,
and you trip repeatedly
on this welcome mat.

There are no electric lights,
no human noises,
but the woods are speaking
with snapping branches,
sudden starts and stops
of an invisible creature on the forest floor,
and owl screeches overhead.
The wind gently urges you forward.

At the end of the trail,
where you plan to leap into the unknown,
you find you aren’t alone.
A bearded, red plaid-clad hipster,
gray beanie atop his head,
long brown hair tied in a bun,
looks right through you
as he opens another IPA.


My dog, Horus,
smiling, sweet, simple,
the face of love,
with ENORMOUS brown eyes
meeting mine,
arresting my attention.
He steps closer to me,
presses his wet black nose against me,
shoves his tiger-striped head
under my hand,
and I obey his silent command,
scratching his velvet ears,
rubbing my fingers
across his crown,
and he has a wart there now,
right in the middle of his forehead.
I don’t know if it bothers him at all,
but it drives me nuts.
This little white bump,
a tiny boulder in the smooth field of soft fur.
I can’t tell you when it first popped up,
but it’s gotten a little bigger
in the past couple of weeks.
We could have it removed,
but it’s purely a cosmetic concern.
So he’s growing a horn,
my rare, mystical unicorn hound.