Wednesday, September 16, 2020


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.


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.


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 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.