Enjoy Being Human

Mikko Harvey

The Machine

The machine can sense when you are afraid
so try to control your fear
when you’re near the machine.

Don’t fall in love
with me, he said.

Certain mistakes possess
a glamor before you
make them, and then
after, they still
shimmer a bit.

The way blowing
on his eyelashes
made her feel
like the wind.


I was standing in the dust
in the centre of a stadium,
a crowd of thousands
watching from the stands.
Some took photographs,
some ate snacks,
some used their arms to gesture
at me indecipherably.
I was alone in the centre
of the stadium,
standing in a field of dust.
Objects were arranged
in my vicinity.
I walked over to a dresser
and opened each drawer.
Each drawer was empty
except for the bottom one,
which contained
a hairbrush. I brushed
my short, thin hair with it.
The audience applauded.
There was a bowl filled
with milk resting on a mattress.
I dipped my hand into the bowl—
the audience gasped.
Gasped as if witnessing death.
I took my hand out of the bowl.
The audience screamed
and moaned, parents shielding
their children’s faces.
I wanted everyone to know
I was okay. I poured the milk
into the dust, creating
a kind of mud.
I knelt down and rolled
around in it. Look, look,
I am a pig, funny,
everyone should stop crying now.
It was then with horror
I recalled our milk was sacred.
I could have touched
any other object.
I could have broken in half
the hairbrush, the abacus.
I could have urinated
on the mattress,
torn up the orange peels.
But not—never—the milk.
The Gamemaster was approaching
with a large pair of scissors.
I stared at my trembling
milky fingers and told them
I loved them. This is not
your fault, I said.
I said, When that blade comes down...
When that blade comes down...
I couldn’t think what to say next.
The Gamemaster was very
very close now. I said,
When that blade comes down...

Third Date

We watched a yellow butterfly bounce, bounce,
then get annihilated by a truck, which cast a wing-sized shadow
over our trip to the state park. It was there, under the sugar
maple canopy, darling, that I learned of your hypoglycemia.
All I had packed were two apples and some nuts.
We got rained on, which made the landscape
a bit muddy, but also greener—
a beauty we trudged through
like two lost soldiers.
Our camp had come under fire. We’d been forced to flee.
All I had to drink was half a canteen
of dirty water—you carried the knife. As we moved
nervously through the forest, you told stories.
My friend back home is a chess master, but he won’t play with me.
He thinks it’ll affect our friendship.
I worked as a model
for a gardening magazine even though I’m allergic
to leafy greens. I listened madly. Listening
felt like the difference between nothingness and maple trees,
and since all you needed was a pair of ears, you allowed me
to follow you even after we escaped.
In your apartment, you were the queen
cutting meat with a butterfly knife, queen who spoke
through a mouthful of grapes.
I was the soldier who forgot his own name. I was the soldier
you declared a king. I was a boy wearing a crown
made of string.

The Sentence

The prison was a tower by the sea. The tower was a used contact lens left behind on my sink. The prison was a memory I could not stop scratching. The tower was free to enter but you had to pay to go up. The sea was there for you when you needed something to spit into. The sea had feelings once, but then a man in a tuxedo whispered to the sea that no, you should not have feelings, that makes it awkward. The sea apologized, said she wouldn’t do it again. After that she just crashed and crashed—no one knew what she was thinking. I watched from the top of the tower, foaming at the mouth. The tuxedo man poked me with a whale’s rib bone, insisting that I sing, sing along to the crashing of the sea. Lyrics tumbled down the teleprompter. And I would have gladly sold my voice, but I couldn’t read the words on the screen. My crime was a silence, I have no doubt about this. Tomorrow I will spit into the sea again.

About Mikko Harvey

Contributor headshot, Mikko Harvey

Mikko Harvey is the author of Unstable Neighbourhood Rabbit (House of Anansi, 2018). He currently lives in New York City, where he is the Joseph F. McCrindle Foundation Online Editorial Fellow at Poets & Writers Magazine. Find him on the web at www.mikkoharvey.com.

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