Our leader sat under the sun.
She had a gun pinned to her lapel
and held a sheaf of wintergreen in her right hand.
In her left a scalp of unknown origin.
Her throne was of purest gold.
You’ll note from the look in her eye
she was wishing for a cushion.
The landscape was indeterminate, a lake,
a banyan or two, a few courtiers unscrolling scrolls.
One began, "Be it so known ..."
Skimming another, "... devastated by your silence."
The pull-down menu lists many more options.
That’s me in the lower foreground
figuring in sand.
Well it must be angels, maybe racks and pinions
pitching instructions along gear to gear
to gear to gear, et voilà, complex revolution.
I cruise the suburbs looking for a cutaway view.
Suns rings bodies cogs. Prosaic perhaps,
but down here looks like a whole lot of spinning
with more or less torque, a mechanism that’s not the latest
paradigm. Somebody’s work keeps getting done.
Held parts make a hub other parts revolve.
Yikes. Hang on now hand to hand to hand
to hand. Give it some heart.
I get the armor part. You expected more. Now you can’t eat your lunch without denouncing it. I tried that once, starving myself in protest as if I could hold the world to its promises. Brilliant. An army of one, taking myself hostage. So you too are part of the created order. Here’s some chocolate. A little courage now. The world sort of keeps its promises. You need to keep yours.
He had a checklist for how to belong. Know where all the cleaning supplies are kept. Check. Be useful in emergencies. Check. Make note of anniversaries, especially painful ones. Check. Speak up as appropriate. Eat the food. Drink the water. Feel free to have a nice long bath. Check. Acknowledge the forms. Affirm the consensus. Check. He didn’t actually use these words, but it’s what his words meant. He might have said something like "This is the way we do things," and what could possibly be wrong with that?
The last one? Actually? Wow. If I had known that, I definitely would not have aimed for it.
About Karen Donovan
Karen Donovan is the author of Fugitive Red, which won the Juniper Prize for Poetry. Her new book of poems, Your Enzymes Are Calling the Ancients, won the Lexi Rudnitsky Editor's Choice Award from Persea Books and was published in 2016. Recent work has appeared in Web Conjunctions, Diagram, Tinderbox, Conduit, and Sixth Finch. She co-edited the prose journal ¶: A Magazine of Paragraphs and works in Providence as a writer. Find her at karendonovanpoetry.com.