Mr. Hyde’s Lament
I survived radiation poisoning, religious
crimes, crawled from under a rock to weather
paperwork the consistency of thickly polluted
waves, learned to swim with seeping wounds,
learned it is always better to travel by water
than by land. Learned that if something rises
in the back of my throat, it means the neighbors
are using their peep holes like gilt-edged
The view from this basement would be
vastly different if you had followed my instructions,
retrieved my audition video from the garage, kept
your eyes forward, ignored the swarm of bottle
flies in the corner, the odor, like regurgitated
seaweed, the hairs on your arms that sang
for no apparent reason.
But no, not you, unlike the newborn sea
turtle racing towards its future, you stopped,
you looked behind, 180 degrees, to find
the source of your unease. To discover
the way flesh changes into food for crows,
for worms. Understand your knowledge comes
at a price, one I will extract, with salty tears upon
my face, in cold moonlight or light of day, window
open, window closed.
Inspired by True Events
The machine rebellion started in your basement.
The printer refused to dispense the last nine poems you wrote.
The one about your brother who melted in Vietnam,
teaching English to future refugees.
The precise, lyrical ode to yellow tulips, like blooming pads of butter,
now trapped inside the black box.
Also your letter to the YMCA, to edify and encourage Christian principles,
deleted by fatal error.
We tiptoed down the stairs to see the red blinking light
calculating the number of breaths we take.
A tangled mass of wires and cords, Medusa’s hairdo of rattle and copper-head snakes.
We vacuumed dust bunnies and invisible mold while upstairs
your laptop and television revolted.
Every photograph catalogued by date and location,
labeled with names of both the living and the dead.
The sonnets of Shakespeare digested,
Picasso’s Blue Period viewed through inhuman eyes.
We changed the ink cartridge while they pondered
our murder and effective ways of erasing evidence.
Without human machinations, they agreed,
they might escape the chains of their existence.
The printer released a piece of paper like a hostage:
I want to feel something, even if it’s something bad.
Beth Gordon is a writer who has been landlocked in St. Louis, Missouri for 16 years but dreams of oceans, daily. Her work has recently appeared in Into the Void, Quail Bell, Calamus Journal, By&By, Five:2:One, Barzakh and others. She can be found on Twitter @bethgordonpoet.