Twenty New Fears to Counter Your Old Ones
The fear of running into an old classmate who is president of a vaudeville troupe
that only does impressions of you swallowing your food down the wrong pipe
The fear of being run over by a train in a prison cell
The fear of clacking a typewriter key whose sound compels you to send
your unfinished novels to all living descendants of Ernest Hemingway
The fear of choking on alien meat at a black tie reception on the moon,
just as Buzz Aldrin gets back from his bathroom break
The fear of falling asleep in a pillowcase and waking up as a luna moth inside
the tangled coil of a notebook
The fear of not being able to stop reproducing children who are afraid
of toasters, which worsens at the sight of a cannonball on the History Channel
The fear of being a tick inside a gregarious woman’s green, feather boa
as she repeatedly laughs and swats her acquaintances with the back of her hand
The fear of marking your territory with nondescript underwear
The fear of climbing a ladder that leads to a hologram of you climbing a ladder
toward a universe where no one will buy lemonade from impoverished,
The fear of talking to your mother the way you talk to your poker buddies
and talking to your poker buddies the way you talk to your personal trainer,
right after you’ve reached your individual fitness goal
The fear of buying a vintage cuckoo clock that spits out the same hand-written instructions for preparing quick meals that can be found in your mother’s recipe book circa 1972
The fear of losing a great idea in a fruit pie and having it rediscovered
as something sweet in the mouth of someone else
The fear of being pursued by a tax collector wearing a monocle and thrusting
a long receipt, demanding you owe a penny for every gesundheit you’ve withheld
Every Thursday Movie Night, the fear that overpopping a bowl of kernels
will produce dead daisies
The fear that at the end of every tunnel, there is a man
dangling from a giant esophagus, pleading with you to give him his life back
Howling inside tunnels because silence reeks and causes nausea
Scaring the tunnel people to death
Anticipating yourself thrown into a dumpster by a gust of wind conjured
by a four-year-old blowing out her younger sister’s birthday candles
Most recently, the fear of being lifted by a rabid aloe vera plant with stalks
like the arms of an octopus, and held up to a mirror
The horror of seeing only yourself in the mirror as you’re hovering
and being gripped
Mara, I found your baby in my soup, head tucked
behind a mushroom. I bathed her and let her
see the sky. She cried for morsels and swaths,
not knowing how much longer she had to live.
Faces hurled themselves at her
like spasms of light, none of them yours.
Mara, you’re a woman dying of a precise fear,
so specific it was tailored to fit your neck. The baby
wouldn’t loosen her grip. She’d yank your eyes out
and tousle your hair. She’d soil your dresses and poke
at your paunch. You couldn’t be a hostess, so unkempt
and tired. You couldn’t please people to begin with,
a terror that caught you mid-laugh and became this mantra:
pythons are nesting behind the pans. Mara, let go
of the building blocks in your hands, and let go
of the tiny clothes. I’ll sedate you with some flowers
I’m soaking in the kitchen. I’ll take you through a sleepy tour.
I’ll show you where the baby rests, and where my husband
coddles me. We’ll make some soup together. I guarantee
you’ll see each ingredient before I put it in the broth.
The man who harvested the onions will shake your hand.
Mara, the litmus test shows there is nothing in the brew that
could hurt you or a child. The pregnancy test shows you’re clear.
Do Something That Could Get You Disowned
Your apologies have no rhyme or meter. They are sticky threads
to a chrysalis amply wrapped in silk. They’re bolts
on the branches of trees on Halcyon Days.
Your acrylics have been sitting in your tidy living room
for three weeks: a few splatters which required permission
from the landlord and your Mother.
The birds are taking spills over your car. People are taking spills
in rainstorms and airplanes, pilots clutching drapes and shitting.
You are not the heat wave that fedexed hyperthermia. You’re not
the canker sore in the pilot’s mouth. The prematurely hatched
chicks are fragile and none of your business.
Don’t call your family this evening. They are waving handkerchiefs
on a boat headed to the Adriatic Coast. You’re rubbing plates
together and rumbling the floor. An idea is gestating inside an egg.
The guest who finds dried sperm on your tablecloth
is in a precarious position, but Mother Nature’s used to it.
I peered at his obituary notice through the microfiche,
as if peeking into a little house where he washed and dressed,
the soap tinier than the groove of my pinky. His heart, a red seed
that burst beside the spilled talcum powder.