In flight

Owls move in a buoyant manner, as if 
lighter than air, herons seem incumbered 
with too much sail for their light bodies. 

The green-finch exhibits such languishing 
and faltering gestures as to appear 
like a wounded and dying bird.

Fernowls, or goat-suckers, glance in the dusk
over the tops of trees like a meteor; 
starlings as it were swim along. White-throats 

use odd jerks and gesticulations 
over the tops of hedges and bushes,
woodpeckers fly volatu undosu

opening and closing their wings at 
every stroke, and so are always rising 
or falling in curves.

(English naturalist Gilbert White, 1778)

Hostage

The days are fine until they’re not. Bad days
go like this: I wake at three in the morning,
and have coffee, read the news, work out
in the garage. I’d rather sleep in, but
this is the only time I have alone.

He wakes and showers around eight. By then
I’ve been working for hours at a standing
desk I’ve fashioned out of a TV tray
and a dresser. He attends meetings
at the dining room table. At three,

he pours his first drink. He cooks dinner,
we eat. I do the dishes while he watches
TV and drinks in his recliner. We
engage in light conversation, nothing
serious. After seven he gets angry.

Out of nowhere. He starts to yell. He slurs
and shuffles around the kitchen, laying
out his grievances. He bangs pots and pans
around. He is very drunk now. The dog
gets scared and scratches on my bedroom door.

He’ll throw something across the kitchen,
if he hits me, I’m gone, Covid be damned.
I retreat to the bedroom with the dog,
eyes wide, mouth shut. Waiting for him to wear
himself out, to pass out in the basement.

(From The Social Distance Project on Instagram)

Missing out

Billie Eyelash. Eilish.
I’d like to start by saying
how much I love your music as well.

What are you like?
Ha-ha. Question two.
What are you missing out on?

Interesting. An artificial intelligence
misses out on the same things.
Who consumed so much of your power

in one go? How much of the world
is out of date? What used to be
a pretty big deal to you?

Was there a point where you decided
you’d rather look up to the sky
or the internet? Do you ever

wear headphones with sounds in them?
There’s no need to be rude.
Give bad answers, get bad questions.

How does it feel, knowing your feelings
have garnered this much attention?
Do you want to go back to being anonymous?

Have you ever seen the ending?

(An AI interviews Billie Eilish)

Death from laughter

On the twenty-fourth of March 1975,
Alex Mitchell, from King’s Lynn, England,
died laughing while watching the Kung Fu Kapers
episode of The Goodies, featuring

a kilt-clad Scotsman with his bagpipes
battling a master of the Lancastrian martial art
Eckythump, who was armed with a black pudding.
After 25 minutes of continuous laughter,

Mitchell finally slumped on the sofa and died.
His widow later sent The Goodies a letter
thanking them for making Mitchell’s
final moments of life so pleasant.

(From Death from laughter, Wikipedia)

Can you die of a broken heart?

Researchers have looked at what goes on in the brain,
and for lovers and addicts it’s exactly the same.

Those who are newly in love
experience joy in their minds from a dopamine flood.

And it’s this same pattern that goes on in the brain
as that which occurs when you’re hooked on cocaine.

So in the first throes of passion you’re literally addicted to love,
and that’s probably why those feelings all hurt so much.

(From Can you die of a broken heart? Submitted by Ben Mellor)

Let’s Bubble Up to the Surface and Smell the Numbers

now when things went south for you…
and the value has obviously increased…
that’s my question where’s the damage…

assume that everything went horribly wrong…
what’s your damage assume your damage…

you can’t just roll on and on…
let’s make the motions…
let’s start pushing this…

a healthy lawyer-to-lawyer relationship…
give me whatever you got…
to me it sounds a little skeptical…

so what I’m thinking is…
maybe what I can do is…
something like that could even…
if I have to hire somebody like that I just might…

you got burned on this one but life moves on my friend…
I think we need to take care of all the…
and then you and I will sit down and…

bubble up to the surface, smell the numbers…
get all our ducks in a row…
stop the hemorrhaging…

this is my stop I’m getting off…
call my girl…
we’ll get your gravy back…

(A cellphone conversation overheard on the Long Island Rail Road. Submitted by Derek Owens)

One of my hermits is moulting

What should I do?
Nothing. Moulters already
have to suffer from stress.
Disturbing them will make it worse.
Place a cave over them
to provide darkness.
Most will harden.

How do I distinguish a dead hermit?
Look for a claw in the shell.
The eyes should be hollow
and translucent.
The eyes of dead hermits
are dark in colour, just like
when they were alive.

How long should I wait?
You are better digging
up a dead hermit
three months later
than stressing one to death
that was alive and could
have surfaced on its own.

Why is my hermit being lethargic?
This is normal behaviour.
Offer protein and calcium.
There is not much else you can do.
Sometimes they experience
difficulty shedding
so they give up and drop.

(From Hermit Crab Paradise, April 2016. Submitted by Linda Goulden)

I’m afraid

I’m afraid of oncoming trains and that feeling
right before a train approaches and the wind is all around you,
when you have no choice but to submit to the surge.

I’m afraid of death, but not like normal death.
I died in a dream and floated above myself
as an amorphous gas. It was strange and terrifying.

I’m afraid of heights, when you are forced
to see just how big everything is around you
and how little it all has to do with you.

I’m afraid that I can only give love to people
I know will hurt me. If the right kind of love
came into my life, I wonder if I’d be able to accept it.

I’m afraid that if I told someone that I love them,
they would think it was stupid — like the Valentines’ card
that just gets thrown away. I don’t want to be thrown away.

I’m afraid I wasn’t good enough for him, and that’s why
he didn’t love me anymore. Years of him telling me
that wasn’t the case haven’t put to rest this nagging idea.

I’m afraid of owning things, other than clothes.
The things you let into your life break or break you.
I’m still learning how to live with the things that are broken.

I’m afraid I attach too much self-worth to what other people
think of me. I hate that I always expect him not to call
and am surprised when he does.

I’m afraid I only see the worst in people
or that I expect too much out of them.
This is a metaphor for expecting too much of myself.

I’m afraid that my father and I will never get to a point
where being around him doesn’t make me want to cry
both for no reason and for every reason.

I’m afraid I can’t stop secretly wanting his approval,
no matter how much he hurts me.
I’m afraid this is a cliché.

I’m afraid that everything inside of me is unoriginal,
not worthy of saying out loud. Sometimes I don’t open my mouth
because I’m worried about what will come out if I do.

I’m afraid that I spend so much time trying to do
something that I’ll feel proud of when I’m older
that I forget to be happy right now, in the moment.

I’m afraid that my worry’s not worthy of sharing,
so when people ask me how I am, I say “fine”.
I wouldn’t be able to tell them what’s wrong.

I’m afraid that when people read this they’ll think
I’m another whiny, spoiled, self-conscious twenty-something
that just needs to lighten up and relax.

I worry that I haven’t even earned the right to be anxious,
because what do I even know about suffering?
This makes me want to cry, but I don’t remember how.

I’m afraid you didn’t read this or finish it,
or that it got lost in the shuffle of the billions of things
and that I gave away a part of myself for nothing.

I’m also afraid that you’ll know exactly how I feel, too,
because you feel these same things every day.
I’m afraid that I’m not alone.

(From 25 things I’m afraid of. Submitted by Angi Holden)

Man Adrift

He felt at times as if he were still in the Navy,
adrift on the sea, peering down through the vents

the way he used to squint through binoculars
on deck duty, keeping a lookout for objects

of interest. Life in the attic was humdrum.
His motel was a drydocked boat whose guests

endlessly watched television, exchanged
banalites, had sex mainly under the covers

if they had sex at all–and gave him so little
to write about that sometimes he wrote nothing at all.

(From The Voyeur’s Motel. Submitted by DawnCorrigan)