I’ve never known how to manage a flock, how to gather strays to my side. Everyone
wanders from any field where I’m in charge. I beg, plead, cajole and tantalize but only my
phantoms stick around. I study the underworld while I’m dreaming because I need to know
what to expect before I’m damned with my sins pinned like mittens to my sleeves. After
I ghost this earth I’ll reappear with my skin in strips and a hive of wasps for a mouth. It’ll be
nice to move without gravity’s unwanted attention, no more needles haunting my joints.
I tell you the world isn’t ready to meet me unburdened by myself but when I said me I meant the world. Your god is not my god is not the pale spirit of our daily crucifixion.
Asylum Episode The scene opens when I’m in third grade and allow a grown man to touch my body. This
sets the tone for the rest of me. It’s where I begin before the fall into another world,
before my elaborate complications set in. I forget who I am for many years and some
argue I lost the plot but the truth is, I spent time in the middle deciphering meaning
amidst the chaos. The way “chromatic” can refer to light or to music is important
to know before the second act ends – even if I think they’re the same. I’ll overcome
the obstacles before anyone has to tabulate their losses and/or after we celebrate
under a disco ball. Bewilderment followed by a sip of happiness, for the lucky ones.
In the time between monsters sniff at our necks attempting to pinpoint the spots
where we might be our most vulnerable. They open their jaws. They swallow us whole.
-- A former bar owner, SM Stubbs has been nominated for the Pushcart and Best New Poets; recipient of a scholarship and staff member at Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference; winner of the 2019 Rose Warner Poetry Prize from The Freshwater Review; finalist for the Gunpowder Press Barry Spacks Prize 2022. His work has appeared in numerous magazines, including New Ohio Review, Poetry Northwest, Puerto del Sol, Raleigh Review, Post Road, Crab Creek Review, December, and The Rumpus.