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February 12, 2021

Five Poems

Danny Caine

Sharing the Playground

If my son stays inside for one more minute he’ll start
eating walls, so we walk over to the playground.
Rounding the corner, I see 2002 on the swings
in a prom dress, all spaghetti straps and Steve Maddens,
her blonde Rachel absorbing the blue and red light
from the Pepsi and Coke machines. That’s weird,
it was a sunny afternoon when we left the house.
“Sorry, bud,” I say. “It’s not safe here, remember
we can’t share playgrounds.” He understands, but
still he frowns. This isn’t the first time. 


Try Again

The website tells me to expect “a fantastic automated experience” but in reality, renting a U-Haul using my phone means freezing my ass off in a dark parking lot, taking photos of my driver’s license, taking photos of van BE-1184, taking photos of myself. My face is getting rejected. Some U-Haul lot bot keeps sending me red text: try again without your hat, try again without your mask, try again without glare on your glasses. Across the lot a person straps a car seat into a truck’s cab, then straps a five year-old kid into the car seat. My breath fogs before me. The person disappears into the exhaust behind the truck. Moments later a Honda Civic exits the lot and turns left through a yellow light onto 6th. The U-Haul sign glows abuzz; the kid sits calmly beneath the truck’s dome light. Whoever’s working the U-Haul store tonight is tucked away somewhere out of sight, invisible between the fluorescent rows of boxes and dollies on the other side of the pane glass. The bot makes me take a picture of the van’s side. The other side. The inside, bathed in flash. There are crime scenes that have been less documented. The kid remains unconcerned. I count the months since I’ve last been in a car with a stranger. My phone buzzes approval and the screen turns green. I place a cold hand on a cold handle. 



I had to Google “cheese wife.”
My son yelled instead of eating
lunch. In the living room I found
an ace of hearts that’s not ours.
I got stuck trying to remember
the last waiting room I was in.
An old lady ate increasingly large
animals, and her survival is in doubt.
The lamp decided to work. I can’t
say if I’ve left the house. My son
entered the room chewing something.
The sunset looked like spaghetti-
corrupted Tupperware. Then, night
returned like the McRib.


The Great Unreal

after photographs by Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs

The road unspooled black and white
          into the color mountains.

No, the trees didn’t rise like French fries—
          the trees were French fries

and my headlights were KFC buckets.
          My grill, a grill. My tires tired.

In the center of the map, a smear
          of white light instead of suburbs.

When I open the blackout curtains,
          there is no parking lot. Just paper.

The TV has eyes. The lamp has eyes.
          Most of the chairs have eyes.

Between door and curtain, where
          there should be wall, forest looms.

Look inside the biggest knot of the biggest
          tree to see little boxes of cheerios in rows.

I can’t tell if it’s daytime or if the world
          ends at the cliff across the street.

From way down here the carpet could be
          a hillside or stalagmites or Coachella.


Picture Window

Watching the stump grinder spit to life, I realize
the dream was never tight jeans and cigarettes,
atmospheric fog from grates under streetlights.
Let someone else make out against a graffitied wall.
The kids can have the cramped restaurants that feel
like secrets, the mystifying dishes that aren’t cooked
but invented. Take the A train. Really. You can have it.
All I need is a picture window so I can sip coffee and
watch a machine chew the fuck out of a bigass stump.