Poems: Elizabeth Onusko

Illo for Elizabeth Onusko's poems.

Meditation While Operating a Motor Vehicle

I can’t comprehend why the person or persons

who designed this highway

put each exit right after an entrance

and believed the denizens of this first-ring suburb

could merge from multiple directions

with the selfless elegance sudden proximity demands

since most of us can’t even manage to save for retirement

or exercise moderately three times a week

or replace the batteries in our smoke detectors

and what’s with the blue minivan

parked near the entrance of the abandoned mall

whose escalator I used to ride up and down

when I was a child waving regally

as if I were the benevolent ruler

of that enclosed city

weatherless yet subject to seasons

and the laws of consumer behavior

which dictate we can be better than we are

with the right sweater

Regularly Scheduled Programming

It amazes me how many people don’t have
the slightest interest in getting to know themselves.
Not a fear of it, just a genuine lack of curiosity.
They’d rather ride a roller coaster or play solitaire
or vote for their favorite singer to win a reality show.
All the better if the wannabe hails from their hometown.
So much of life comes down to coincidental proximity.
Once it rained across the street but not on our house.
As I stared at the ensuing rainbow, I realized my dreams
were unattainable. Not every feeling has a name
in the language I grew up speaking. If I tell you
I can’t tell you how much this means to me,
odds are I mean it literally. Good thing
I don’t have to say a word. You order takeout
because I had a bad day. I rub your calves
but never your feet because they’re ridiculously ticklish.
We watch the only show we both like.
You might go to bed early or I might.
Whoever wakes up first makes the coffee.

Fear Is a Belief System

Our minds invent threats. Our minds become databases of suspicious faces. Our minds rewrite the rules of engagement. Our minds calculate the shortest distance to the sunrise and in that way fly. Our minds relish the sleek bulk of precision-guided missiles in their holsters and delight in birthing this demented flock, these geniuses of absence. Thousands of feet below, bodies fall. Our minds stare directly at the sun. Our minds see nothing but light and are lost to themselves. Our minds call this purification. Our minds are pure.
Elizabeth Onusko is the author of Portrait of the Future with Trapdoor (Red Paint Hill, 2016). Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Bennington Review, Best New Poets 2015, Conduit, DIAGRAM, Sixth Finch, Fugue, Southern Humanities Review, and Redivider, among others. She is the editor of Foundry and assistant editor of inter|rupture. Her website is elizabethonusko.com.

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