Volume 4 Issue 1

Welcome to Volume 4 Issue 1 of From Whispers to Roars. We are thrilled to be going into our 4th year with such an amazing collection of work. Sit back and enjoy it – all of our contributors truly sent us their best work!

5% of submission fees from this issue were donated to Leave No Trace, an environmental outdoor ethics nonprofit.

R. R. Noall

After a Year Without Lipstick
Pamela Viggiani

After a Year Without Lipstick by Pamela Viggiani

Resilience by Nancy Lubarsky

Today a squirrel dangles upside down from the (squirrel-proof) bird feeder. His back legs

cling to the metal perch. His front paws reach below to the caged seed-cakes. This could be

the one that we’ve heard shuffle above the bathroom on bitter cold days when the dog growls

and scratches. We’ve invested in so many contraptions (exterminators, too) to keep him

away. Yet he manages to bypass cones, screens, assorted blockades. My face is against the

glass, but hidden behind his reflection. So he remains for the moment. I kneel down, tilt my

head. We are eye to eye in our awkward contortions. I hear acorns are scarce this winter. It

might be like this for a year or more. His tail is long and full. He hangs on, makes do.

Grounding by Robin Greenler

The pudgy cloves lie in a straight line,

white garlic dots on black soil.

My cold fingers work the row,

tucking them deep, wishing them well.

This year I find myself on new soil.

Thirty-one farm years shifted

to new ground, with new horizons.

The soothing whisper of the ritual helping me root.

Tiny snow specks dance in the air,

as if I need reminding of nights ahead.

Garlic and I, we know this dance,

though the dance floor is new for us both.

It is a covenant between us,

every year we plant, water, coddle,

while they grow with gusto,

their fattest, roundest offspring saved for next season.

Carrying tradition through transition

holds me fast to old choices and

grounds me deep in rich wisdom.

Leaving me feeling a wee bit burdened

and a whole lot blessed.

How I Know I’m Not Alone in The Pandemic by Ruth McArthur

Because we drink coffee on the porch.

Because the old dog still wants a bit of his walk.

Because the young dog can’t get enough of hers.

Because old shows make me laugh.

Because he found a TV series he thought I’d like.

Because he was right about that.

Because there is supper to cook.

Because the bank statement still comes.

And the bills.

Because the tanager still clucks,

the painted bunting still sings,

the blue grosbeak still answers.

Because there are tomatoes on the tomato plants

harlem, street-lamp, tulips, love queen layla  
George Stein

harlem, street-lamp, tulips, love queen layla by George Stein

On Having An Orgasm For the First Time by Katie Bowers

For almost half my life now

I’ve not been a virgin:

Almost fifteen years ago, at sixteen,

I came to learn that the whole shebang was

a n t i c l i m a c t i c

over and over I was taught this:

at seventeen and eighteen and nineteen and twenty

and why did I keep repeating myself?

Insanity is doing the same fucking

(thing) over and over again

and expecting [an orgasm] different results.

Suddenly without warning at twenty-one,

with a man twelve years my senior—

a man with a dragon tattoo on his calf

a penchant for cowboy hats

I’d come (for the first time) to see what

all the fucking (fuss) was about.

Crush by Alison Garber

One night I crushed up Xanax with a spoon and became invisible. Pills dampen our

screams in one bite. Sixteen is a weird age to be.

My little sister recently called her graduate school applications “intangible.” But what

does she really want? Our parental guidance was often a Picasso during childhood, blocks of

colorful triumph offset by mostly drunkenness and multiple personalities. Go to Harvard, they

said. Our mother doesn’t even know I’m a mom now. She held my hand under the kiosk at the

airport until my wrist turned white. I was only trying to take her home. Anger burns hot for

the women of my family.

Sometimes when I’m writing I wonder if anyone has read any of my poems out loud. I

hope they did it in the mirror and audibly cringed. On my typewriter are three lines of text, all

overlapping and covered in coffee stains. It’s truly authentic, and I must be an artist. I wonder

if I should apply to graduate school and if so, if I should submit a poem. But it’s too late to be

anything at all when you’re a woman of a certain age. It’s possible to burn coffee that’s sat on

the burner for too long. I suppose I should start investing but I’m screaming.

The last thing I want to be as a writer is invisible. But what do I really want?

Flexibility to be normal while maintaining a profile as a poet.

Ghost Song 4 by John Haugh

Imagine a dust

of silver glitter

puffs from lips

in extreme close up

as the word, “proud,”

emerges from my mother

or father’s mouth.

Either parent, though I’d prefer

the living one. Imagined

because I cannot recall one

single time, even when training

with the Olympic team

at age ten.

Fractional optimist me

hopes it happened,


Mom still follows

the words “high school”

with “slacker,”

tempered by half smile,

as if that might slake

my gnawing.

Repeat by Caitlin Dunn

in Death Valley even shade was hot

where I could find it and the air

going fast was like standing behind

a truck’s exhaust, breathing in

and there are shells there, on the sand hills

two hundred miles from the ocean,

white like dog’s teeth and brittle


in a ghost town, somewhere

near Buena Vista it is too high

up for mosquitoes and the river is clear

snowmelt, runoff, rapid, loud like wind

mountains are so still and maybe

older than snow, than the white pines

we call trash trees that bend for the light,

older than the sound of water

and some of the stars


in the slope of the Natchez Trace

there is only a limb of sky

and it winds slow and gray

with fog like winter breath at night

and while I peel through

smaller than the bull thistles

a white-tailed deer behind the treeline

gives birth and there is no sound

at all but her breath

In The Open by Cynthia Ruse

In The Open by Cynthia Ruse

Not One of Those Asians by Laura English

It’s 45 degrees and sunny when I park my black Volkswagen sedan in Kroger’s parking lot. It’s

the kind of 45 degrees that Ohio waits for in the winter and yearns for in the summer. Johnson and

Johnson has released their one-dose vaccine, and in mere days it will arrive in Columbus. For a year,

the Wuhan virus is ravaged the United States. The China virus infected American seniors. The Chinese

virus put front-line workers and their families at risk. The Kung Flu is killed millions of Americans.

But today, it’s 45 degrees, sunny, and there are three vaccines. While health officials warn us to remain

vigilant, I know I’m not in the clear. I put my mask on over my game face, and exit my car.

As soon as my foot touches asphalt I am swift to stand and give the door a firm enough push

that the door closes with a force just short of a slam. I glance around as I step forward heel-first, just a

hair further than I need to. This exaggerated step causes my hip to jut forward and up while pushing the

other down and back and when I repeat the motion with my other side, my gait becomes almost impure.

I pick up the pace of my sashay until my stride feels casual yet purposeful.

This is how an American woman walks, I think.

When my hard steps take me through the sliding glass doors, I take inventory of the bodies and

faces closest to me. I feel for the label on my tan Carhart beanie and confirm that its logo is fully

displayed, then give the bottom of my navy blue Champion sweatshirt a tug in case it had crept up. My

clothes now finely tuned, I yank out a cart and lean against it as I begin to slide toward the produce

department for fruits and vegetables that I intend to eat but probably won’t.

This is how an American woman dresses, I think.

My phone rings before I pass the first produce display, bags of grapes and clementines. I

consider them as I remove my phone from my back pocket, wishing I could trust myself to eat them

before they go bad.

“Heeeey,” I draw out the “ay” with bright sass.

“Why did you answer the phone like that?” my friend responds. Then, “Oh, you’re at the store,

aren’t you?” She knows the drill.

My friend and I slide into benign conversations about relationships, work, and family, but my

vernacular is unnecessarily abrasive. I have raised my voice and I know I’m too loud, probably

obnoxious. Where I might normally chuckle, I laugh loudly with big “Ah-ha-ha” sounds. I find ways to

substitute adjectives, nouns, verbs, and even proper nouns for the dirtiest curse words I can think of.

This is how an American woman talks, I think.

I’m an American woman trying to act and speak like an American woman; emulating a

stereotype of some subset that I can’t put my finger on. I behave like an exaggerated version of myself.

I’m not fundamentally different from my American character. I’m being cartoonishly me so that I look

like I’m one of you.

This is how an American woman behaves, I think.

Irrationally I feel like my fellow Americans, whether black, white, or brown, will see how I

walk, how I’m dressed, and hear how I talk and see that I’m one of them—an American. My walk will

make my eyes less slanted, my clothes will hide the yellow tones in my skin, how I talk will combat my

flat nose and round face. I’m desperately telling them: I’m not one of

those Asians.

Because this is not how an American woman looks.

Boreal by Jenny Bates

Sounds arrive in syrup-starlight, years-ago handprint catches

finally reaching the house, letting themselves in.

murmurs, echoes, clanks

rattles, blows

There is no mellowing effect of time in harsh climes,

only howls soften conflict. Bemused habits, cowls arise

from shadows, courtyard quiet.

clattering, tinkling, whispering

roaring, crying

Well beaten paths with bare ankles lined by wire-grass,

rush and run along roads ignorant, hollow and simple.

burst, hum, clatter

slam, thump

Peaceful solution comes with the thaw, unprintable

mutterings reverberate the jaw. Retreat to safety behind

glass walls. From hurling insults slush stuck to paws.

croaking, cawing, shrieking

pattering, creaking

The Visit by Stuart Gunter

She let the screen door slam

behind her, sat on the wooden

porch, her cut-off jeans riding

up her legs, her brown flannel

shirt tied up over her belly. A sick

and uneasy feeling. She drank

her root beer, read her book.

Lilies in the dirt track beside

the red painted lions and the bird-

bath. She shot furtive looks toward

the kudzu woods. She finished

her drink, lay her book down on

the planking. She remembered ghost

hands on her back. She thought

of her father, asleep in the lounger,

mom making tea at the stove,

chamomile filling the kitchen. She

held a gaze to the end of the drive.

Who was this misty spirit walking

to her, looking like an angel?

Shadow/Light & Two Trees by Stuart Gunter

Shadow/Light & Two Trees by Stuart Gunter

Inner Peace by Benita Jane

I have become one with these roads.

I am entwined with these green-stained trees.

I am okay with these people

and the oversized seagulls prowling the beaches like starving gangsters

and the crows that run these streets

and the skunks that play truth or dare on the corners.

I am okay with the men I open my legs for

in search of daddy

sorting out my issues

and the way the women show me two sides to their faces.

I am okay with the job that leads me nowhere slowly but always shows up

and the summer that brings with it flocks of those who will never understand

and the winter that greys my world.

I have become one with this ocean.

I am entwined with these crashing waves.

I am okay with these people.

I am okay.


I am.

LAX by Julie Labuszewski

“Let’s get married,” you say to me at LAX minutes before my departure to New York.

I’m speechless.

Is this a proposal?

Let’s get married?

We’ve never talked about marriage. Why now? Why not yesterday in your apartment

when you held me in your arms and we fell asleep on your mattress plopped on the floor? Or the

day before at Venice Beach when we sprinted into the ocean and swam out beyond the surf – the

two of us proclaiming to the City of Angels that our joy was more powerful than the waves

coming at us. Or when I called to tell you I got the job in New York?

Let’s get married. It’s casual, similar in tone and parallel in structure to “Let’s get lunch.”

It’s a slice of pizza on the boardwalk. There’s minimal effort involved. It’s more of a suggestion.

No follow-through necessary.

You can tell I’m surprised. Stunned. What’s so damn funny?

I turn away.

Sunlight floods the concourse. Travelers rush by. I feel the looming presence of the

aircraft on the tarmac, a vacant seat waiting for me. But I’m frightened. If I leave today, if I

board this plane, will I lose a place in your life – in your whimsical, playful heart – forever?

We kiss goodbye.

The plane lifts into the sky. I gaze out the window. The city quickly shrinks in size until it

resembles a miniature town built with Legos. I can see colorful houses stacked beside each other,

spacious green parks, red schools, and blue pools – interlocking blocks that could be rearranged

and reimagined.

Hewn by Barbara A Meier

Hewn from greenhorn limestone,

from the quarry in the pasture,

I peel back the overburden

like peeling the skin from a bad sunburn.

Under a denim sky, the earth is ripped

liked a gal’s best jeans,

patched with pasture and field,

The wind whispers in my hair,

brushing history from my forehead.

I am rooted like the rhizomes

of the shortgrass prairie.

It is the rock from which I am hewn,

hardening in Kansas sun surrounded

by the living grass of future generations.

Blur of Modern Life
Patrick McEvoy

Blur of Modern Life by Patrick McEvoy

Scary Movies by Frankie Soto

were my favorite thing to watch before bed. I grew up addicted to the suspense

of horror films. The musical score would dive in—base would start to rumble.

I would have goosebumps the size of pumpkin seeds

My hands were used as shutters during the final scenes—the gore made my stomach

churn. I now watch the news in similar fashion.

One hand covering my eye,

the other hand clamped across my chest.

Standing pat and silent.

Still can still be perceived as intimidating. Non-threatening prefers cardigans

over hoodies until the cardigan is too

West Philly-Will Smith & not enough Bel Air

There is a horror movie waiting every time a boy is the color of a fleeting sunset

every time he steps outside the door

steps inside a car—doesn’t drop to the floor quick

enough for a gun to remain holstered.

Peace is the seconds between

a loose tongue, a heavy accent, a nervous trigger finger.

Unaware he is the villain in every scary movie ever made.

Michael Myers

Freddy Kreuger

Jason Voorhees




Emmett Till Trayvon Martin Breonna Taylor

The latter don’t get to keep coming back from the dead—no sequels to

be made. One day my sons blue eyes won’t be fast enough to run

from his Soto last name

his mother’s light skin will allow him to always feel safe where others

aren’t allowed to. I will show him the scariest movies so he isn’t confused

that his milk tone arms may make him look like all the slashers but his

bones are made of bomba and sugar cane—just like his Papi

Just like his Papi he will be a son of stolen lands, sons of stolen time

—mothers reminding them to drive careful, to be careful,

not knowing that careful is a prayer bungee jumping in her chest.

How many of the bodies left at Crystal Lake

had parents awake waiting?

How many of the bodies left at Crime Scenes

have made a mother’s throat a church?

There use to be a shrine of chills on my back,

popcorn butter lips & jumping at every unexpected

surprise. There is now a chill that doesn’t go away.

The sun has been barricading itself behind clouds

There are sons being buried who don’t match the color of clouds.

Since I was a kid I have been addicted to scary movies

but there is a real terror happening that I don’t have the

stomach to watch anymore

Devour by Alison Garber

I enter the white screen and play the ivory keys.

I devour books of poetry. I too want to be bigger than myself, bigger than pain. I too

want to put relevant sentences together, using words made of steel and wood, dividing my

time between what feels right and what doesn’t make sense.

My creative process begins and ends with my experiences. I am in pain, and writing is

an outlet, like a Swedish massage. It is hard, and harsh, but the pain is released and I can go

back about my day. Perhaps, even better for having done it.

I exist under a bell jar of thoughts that cannot go anywhere but directly to paper.

My brain fizzles like seltzer. The bubbles make me laugh, and I am often happy. My

writing is the deepest crack in the earth, where gravity sucks me down with each stroke on my

keyboard. I am not an unhappy person. I need to make sense of the rabbit hole, or the Matrix,

or whatever we call reality actually is.

Thoughts, like emotions, are temporary. I write mine down to feel the flavor of the

day. Writing, to me, is the ace of spades. It is what trumps everything else. It is not always the

winning card, but it is the reason we hold on to what we’ve been dealt.

Haiku Sequence: Winter 2020-21 by Mark Francis

red sunclouds fall down

solar face slipping failed mask

other stars heedless

this mulberry stub

might grow to be something: shrub

of berries, silk, jam

birds once nested loud

under my window ac

hope now chirp elsewhere

a borderland heart

knows only adjacencies

bare trees, dust, gringos

i’d rather starve than

not eat stars, nebulae, moons

–oh, never mere Earth!

Charcoal Abstract #1 by Steven Tutino

Charcoal Abstract #1 by Steven Tutino

If you Wanted to Search For Your Soul by John Reed

Would you know where to look?

Would it be in the attic of your mind,

Where all the memories are stored?

In a box,

Or a locked trunk, somewhere?

Mixed in with family things?

Can you find the keys?

If not your attic,

Then you might have to look in the utility room,

Among your appliances and tools.

Mixed in with all those schedules, and commitments, and to do lists

That take the place of thinking — and feeling.

Where routine gives the illusion of security — and reality.

Maybe your soul slipped behind the water heater, or the washer/dryer combination.

Or maybe the Sock Monster ate it.

You might look in your study,

Among the papers scattered on the desk,

Or the books and magazines resting on your bookshelves.

Or in your filing cabinet with your bills,

Or stuck in with your mortgage, or your rental agreement.

Or maybe you’ll find it in the dictionary, or the thesaurus, or the investment advice,

Or the self-help books at the back of the desk.

Maybe you could search your apps, or Google it.

You could check for it in Facebook, or YouTube, or in a LinkedIn connection, or Christian


Maybe it’s with some gamers, or some other “game-changers.”

Is it in your TV, or your smartphone, or in Fox News?

Or preserved by your elected officials, or the NRA.

Your soul might be in your church,

Where you should love your neighbor,

as long as he’s like yourself.

Does the God you look to happen to look a lot like you?

Have you found Him yourself; or did you inherit Him?

Does your God have things in common with you;

Or with everyone?

And if you find your soul,

How will you know it’s yours?

And what will you do with it?

It might be best to just leave it alone,

For now.

Shoved Through The Cracks by Brian Rihlmann

all I know is

one morning

I drove by like always

on my way to work

and they were gone

the ground scraped clean

beneath them

a makeshift village reduced

to a pile of tents and sleeping bags

awaiting a dumpster

a horde of workers

in hazmat suits

downtown I see

another weekly motel

boarded up

another one torn down

places of last resort


in my old neighborhood

another new apartment building

starting at 1500

for a one bedroom

you ask

where they come from

that’s the easy part

I wonder

where they go

if they ever find peace

down the hard road

Alfie The Eagle by Chris Hannas

My dream ever since getting this job has been to wear the costume home. Other people

get to wear their suits or uniforms during their car rides or on the bus or the train. Why shouldn’t

I be afforded the same luxury? Why do I have to dirty a separate set of clothes each day that I am

then responsible for cleaning? It’s an absolute injustice.

When I asked my boss about it the first time, he thought I was joking. To him, it was

ludicrous that someone whose entire day was spent playing the role of a giant eagle would want

to continue that for one minute longer than necessary. The guy who had the job before me only

did it for two weeks before quitting. I’ve been here 14 years and plan to die here. Really. I would

love nothing more than to die in this suit. That’s how much I love being Alfie The Eagle.

What I represent is the city of Alfredtown. How exactly they came to adopt an eagle as

the official city mascot is a matter of some debate but most historians trace it to a band of

travelers who came here in 1854 loaded with eagle feathers to trade. We have no eagles here.

They are not native to any place within a couple hundred miles. So when presented with the

chance to obtain some beautiful, rare material such as the feathers, the people of Alfredtown

went nuts and got them all.

The travelers moved on, but in short order the feathers they left behind became took on

legendary qualities. They are stitched into hats and woven into dreamcatchers hanging on the

wall. The majority though are framed in the manner one would if given a key to the city or

similar civic honor. The original feathers are all numbered and well catalogued. If you try to sell

one, the buyer and everyone she knows will immediately be able to tell if it’s genuine and tell

you each of its prior owners right on back to the original traveler who brought it.

My suit has five original feathers, making it one of the most valuable things the city

actually owns that isn’t a building. It’s even worth more than the mayor’s car. You might think

that would make it a target for theft or tampering, but again, there’s no market here for selling

one of the feathers if people know it’s stolen. You would be run out of town in a worse

punishment than anything the court system could decree. A thief would have an easier time

kidnapping the mayor himself and trying to get some cash for him on the black market.

I’m not originally from Alfredtown. I came here one sunny spring afternoon during my

senior year of college in search of a peaceful study spot. The campus is only 10 minutes away,

but even that short distance was large enough to feel like I was in a different world. I didn’t

know anyone here and nobody knew me. I could sit under a tree, soak up some rays, breathe in

the sweet wind of the season and watch bumblebees bounce from flower to flower. When

graduation day came, I was confronted with the sudden freedom of realizing I could go anywhere

I wanted and do whatever I wanted. My degree was in communications, a field easily applicable

to all kinds of jobs.

The one I applied for was officially titled Special Assistant to the Mayor and had

basically no job description other than generally doing whatever was needed around City Hall.

That sounded fine to me, I seemed fine to them, and two days after the interview I showed up for

my first day. The dress code meant I had to ditch my wardrobe of comfy shorts and tank tops I

had grown accustomed to in that last warm semester and trade them for pant suits and heels.

While not officially a public-facing position, I was moving around the building so much that it

mattered I look as professional as possible to the citizens who were there to get some kind of


I loved the job. One day I would be answering the main phone line and directing people’s

calls to relevant departments. Other times I would head out with a survey team and find out

directly what the people thought the mayor should be doing to make Alfredtown better. But it

was when Jimmy quit that I truly felt my calling. His departure was abrupt, with no two-week

notice or courtesy given. He just didn’t show up one Tuesday, and when we called him, he gave

us an address to send his final check and hung up.

That particular day was no problem. There were no official events and the suit was

conveniently scheduled for a cleaning anyway. My task was to go pick it up at the specialty shop

50 miles away where we send it twice a year. They do nice work. I walked inside and when I

held the eagle head in my hands I got the same feeling I did when sitting down in the Alfredtown

park that first day. It was a release from everything I thought life could be. I was happy before

that moment, but standing there I realized I hadn’t yet understood what happiness was. I knew

there was no going back to a normal day at the office.

As I started driving back I called my boss and asked if he had interviewed anyone to take

over the Alfie role. He said he hadn’t even posted the job yet.

“Why, do you want to do it?” he joked.

“I do.”

He of course thought I was kidding because he was. It took a good minute for him to see I

was serious.

“Sure, whatever,” he said.

He later told me that he assumed I would only do it for a week before asking to return to

my old role full-time. I was really good at that job, and if he had known my true desire, he never

would have let me leave it. But I did. And my entire soul was ignited by the new possibilities I

felt in each day.

Being Alfie has a lot of similarities to the old job. I am doing something different all the

time, interacting with different people and bringing a different vibe everywhere I go. The way I

approach an elementary school assembly is different from how I am at the senior center. The

spirit of Alfie never changes, but let’s just say his energy level can vary. While I can roughhouse

with an 8-year-old, I have to be super cautious about even turning around when I’m among the

older crowd so I don’t accidentally knock someone over with my tail.

My commute is not long, but it’s an unnecessary hassle imposed by the rule about only

wearing the suit during work hours. I almost never spend the day at City Hall. Sometimes there

are bill signings or special meetings where they want me present. But most of the time it’s those

events out in the community. The way my boss figures, we have the suit, so why not spread civic

pride all over, all the time? What that means is driving 10 minutes to work, picking up the suit,

then driving 10 minutes somewhere else. How inefficient!

When I brought this up to my boss, he was sympathetic, but unmoved. I was rather

disappointed, mainly because the convenience isn’t even my main reasoning for wanting to wear

the suit more. But how can I bring him the argument about it being normal in this country to

wear your work uniform all the time if he won’t accept the far easier argument I already

presented? He’ll think I’m kidding again. Or worse, if he does understand, he’ll probably think

I’m crazy and will want to like sleep in the suit. And of course I’ve thought about that, mainly

that I would need to sleep standing up so the feathers wouldn’t get all matted down.

So for now I show up every day in my pant suit and heels, pick up Alfie and go where

I’m going. I find a bathroom or empty side room where the door locks and I switch personas

from serious business woman to symbol of my adopted city. And deep in my heart I hope that

one day I can just be the thing I want to be all the time.

Memphis Mood by Cheryl Comeau-Kirschner

Memphis Mood by Cheryl Comeau-Kirschner

January Tea – Ginger by Kate MacAlister

in a perfectly measured box

I lay with Bluebeard’s girls

the last one still warm

her lacy black pants

dangling from the end of the bed

barely wide enough for two

and as you blush

I start to dream

of the tales

laying here

all your lost muses

maybe once sisters

singing with the seagulls

in the wild void

of your marks and stitches

“That’ll only take 2 weeks to heal”

(What an awfully long time for just a scratch)

Love looked better

when it was more than

just a little bit

I listen deeply

dying breaths


nothing left to say



Break me


Self Portrait As an Early 2000s Romantic Comedy by C. Riley

I wake up and it’s all the same.

I tuck a handful of sheets under decorative

pillows. They’re pretty enough to show a sigh

of my personality, but not too bold. I’m careful

to never be too much of anything. I swipe a tight line

of beautiful across my eyelid before opening my closet.

A museum of effortless coordination. Everything is pink,

and it’s all on purpose. I’m miserable, and no one

knows. I kick open the fridge while scanning

the front page of the newspaper that was delivered

by the sunrise. The counter is clean, like someone’s wedding

dress stuffed in the back of a closet, begging

to be used. I have a habit of never staying in one place

too long. Some people call it quirky, and I have no reason

not to believe them. I take one bite of golden toast,

and then I’m at work. I’m sure to say hello to the person

behind the desk downstairs, the person delivering mail

in the hallway, Steve from marketing one cubicle over.

I’m nice to everyone all the time. None of them know

that I’m single — my least favorite personality trait.

My ear is always stuck to the receiver of the telephone,

and I still have time to split a piece of cake in the breakroom

for a secretary’s 45th birthday. I leave for lunch

and never come back. And then, of course,

it starts to rain. Suddenly an umbrella shadows everything

I had deemed terrible. Just to my left, there you are,

laughing to yourself as if nothing could ever be so perfect.

It’s then that I forget about my urgent plans

to call back my mother. To finish that load of laundry,

heavy in the basement machine. I couldn’t even say

why I bothered doing any of those things before

now. Today becomes its own holiday.

We walk to the bar down the street, where we’ve spent

every empty Friday but have never met. You order for me,

and I like that. You ask all the questions, and I like that, too.

The exhaustion of being my own person

is over. Then, you press a napkin into my palm.

Your phone number bleeding through the folds.

I can’t stop smiling. I fall asleep in an instant

and don’t even wonder if anyone loves me.

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