Poetry Issue #59

The Best in the Midwest

There’s a town in Indiana called
Liminality. I’ve never been.
Liminality is the name above the bank,
the name crowning the post office.
The school, the police station, the church.
The diner, famous for its hash browns,
The Best in the Midwest! Letters
arrive in Liminality from elsewhere
and disappear. They are addressed
mostly to the dead. No one remembers
the last time they’ve seen the police chief,
the principal, the pastor. They exist,
they have not died, they are not
invisible. They simply have lived
in Liminality far too long. The one
bookshop in town specializes
in the occult. Its doors are shaped
like a vulva. Those who enter, proceed
through a birth canal to emerge
in a womb, surrounded by oracles.
Things happen there I am not allowed
to divulge. Visitors gestate for a while.
When they leave, they’re reborn
with no memory of their former selves
or the town they passed through.
They get in their cars, they drive away,
they never try to find Liminality
on a map. Years later, they might wake up
in the middle of the night and walk
through their house, opening doors,
looking for the source of an oddly
comforting smell filling their nostrils.
Hash browns, they think. The best
in the Midwest. If this is something
you do every once in a while,
chances are you have passed through
Liminality, IN, even though
you could swear you’ve never been.

 

 

After Talking to My Daughter About the Magic of Algebra

Somehow, I’ve grown to believe that life is
the sum of all things: an accumulation
of somethings—or some things that matter
only to me and an number of things
that matter to others. But life is the inside
of an angle. The inward glance, so to speak,
of a geometrical shape that doesn’t make
any sense. The upside of a fallen triangle.
The downside of a square root. I know
that’s actually algebra. A bonesetting litany
of broken parts. Their terrifying harmonious
wholes. Life knows I’m the square root
of my own pallid angst. The root of negative
one would make me an imaginary number.
A minuscule i, which is oddly fitting.
How to be in the world. What is so great
about being in the world anyway. I take life
by the horns—I mean, by its square root—
to carve a geometrical shape with my nose
in down dog on the mat. Beneath me,
the floor of a third-floor apartment. Or third-
story, if you wish. When I first learned
the word in English, I thought buildings had
stories because they held people. The taller
the building, the higher the number of
its occupants, the more elaborate its stories.
Today, this story-full floor under my feet,
so far from the earth, is solid. That, in itself,
is a miracle. The dog mimics my ass-in-the-air
position. She wants to be walked and not
on the leash. Don’t we all. Give me the forest
or give me a comfy seat on the couch,
in front of a giant TV set. Some never-ending
Netflix series on mute. And the rain. Falling
at a mysterious angle, as always. Life
is the square root of this rain, I know it.

 

 

The Play

Last night I dreamed I was Hamlet
in a production of As You Like It.
Stay with me. It’s not my fault
Shakespeare got all scrambled up.
I did too much in my dream.
Built a whole stage set
of the forest of Arden. Sold
tickets to what was supposedly
a romance. Picked up Ophelia
at the airport. Learned my lines
while hammering down
a cardboard tail on a cardboard
horse. Prevented Ophelia
from drowning before
the play started. Had to explain
she was in the wrong play.
It’s a potpourri, she said
& handed me herbs. I took them.
I always do in my dreams,
no matter who hands me what.
Which is why, when I finally stepped
on that stage in my oil-spattered
overalls, facing a horse’s ass,
I couldn’t remember my lines.
To be or not to be, I said.
The director’s eyes burrowed
right through me. There was no
question I was about to get sacked.
Then the doors burst into splinters
& a horde of dei-ex-machina
zombies proceeded to mow
through the audience to the tune
of The Final Countdown.
What a feast for the eternally
hungry, I told the horse,
as we watched the director lose
his heart to a zombie Ophelia.
To be, the horse neighed back &
offered me a gun. Reader, I took it.

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