Old Friends Home for Retired Racehorses

I went to the farm of retired racehorses,
listening as the guide told us of how
they’d been kept in stalls twenty-two hours per 
day so they’d confuse speed with freedom
as they bolted down the track—how, 
no longer able to race, they’d been                                                    
sold for slaughter, then saved 
by a journalist from Boston who had 
an idea: to give them these green-
brown fields, this long afternoon. 

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Dear Best Buy Employee,

I guess this could be an apology letter, 
of sorts, because I’m sorry, I really am, 
for stroking those sound bars into their own 
sonic, semi-erotic oblivion. Giggling all the way 
to the flat screens and pressing their power
buttons in pivot so that all your beats pills screamed
yes, they are still in stock. Did you know 
that everything in your store can be taught 
to speak with one another?

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the eddy

Is it the eddy that makes us include the bits
we did not want? Is it the curving hill that means
snow shapes our pathway? or just the cold black
thought that the eddying of memory never
brings back even a swallow of the days
in which I wandered and left, and jumped
off the high stones in a ravine, near our lake.
Ravine, lake, stone, eddy, all to be leapt
Hurry body hurry. My time, almost quit.

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Star Trek

Back then he saw himself, a Black Captain Kirk
cruising the cosmos in an Afro and tight gold shirt.

When he was eighteen, he tucked the doo-wop street corners
of his neighborhood into his back pocket and traveled

where no colored man had gone before. He crossed-over into suburbia
rang doorbell after doorbell while holding his breath, waiting

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Bar Jokes

And the bartender says, “Sometimes, when it’s a slow night, I think about those vacant November days, when the leaves are an ancient language on the sidewalk, a prayer to something old and blind. I think about how this joke would look, boarded up and rotting.”

And the man says, “That bad, huh?”

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I Saw the Sunshine, Melting

Beneath the old sarcophagus and inside the core of Reactor 4, there remains a black, molten mass. The mass has a name, though I’m not sure who named it. (Only a few people have seen it in person, and it’s unclear if any of them are still alive.) They call this black, molten mass the Elephant’s Foot, and if you look at it for more than five minutes, it may be the last thing you see. The blackened lava has solidified in parts and formed rings, loops like the bark of a tree. At its center, the Elephant’s Foot continues to burn. Thirty years later the wolves and deer and wild boars have returned, the sun is scorching, the mushrooms are scraping their fresh caps against the sky, oh my, oh my! And the core is still melting.

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Origins

This daily shrinking of a 28-letter alphabet 
Trading غين حاء عين ضادfor the Fourteenth Amendment
Dragging inshallah by the vowels from right to left.
English no longer my second language
Nor Arabic my first. 

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Faux Pas

I remember every second: the shock of how very hot things feel very cold, the way my finger stuck to the plate, the skin tugging as I pulled it off, screaming as my grandmother ran the cold water. “Bet you won't do that again,” she told me. “Don’t just do things because people tell you to.'”

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SOME PEOPLE YOU CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT

I’m not here to have opinions

I keep thinking, Rib-eye steaks, and what do you know? Lil’ Spanky actually comes by. “Just Billy now,” he tells us, shaking Thomas’s hand. “But look at this! Big boss right here!” he says.

Thomas shrugs. He’s in a rayon shirt and cuffed slacks he ordered from a back-alley tailor in Little Saigon.

Billy’s still holding Thomas’s hand as he says to me, “Back in the day this fool was at a Motel 6! Running fingers through the carpet for rocks!”

“Yeah,” I say. “That probably explains a lot.”

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Equivalent

Every couple of months, the seller arrived unannounced to pick up something he had left behind: a wall phone in the den, canoe mounts in the shed. The buyer allowed him to take what he wanted, then asked him for help with a difficult chore.

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Dog: Gone

A man told me once that there’s more nuclear waste roaming the highways than there is in underground storage. He said they can’t keep it in one spot for too long. (I did not ask who “they” were.) I merely nodded at this possible lie. I found the story too romantic to want to challenge it.

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The Naïfs

I asked her death angel, whom I could barely see that day, why. Why the savagery. She had been, on balance, a good person. Selfish at times, deceptive even. But on balance, I mean. The indistinct angel might have shrugged, I couldn’t be sure.

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The Great Plains

The fence won’t be a deterrent for Liam; even with his skateboard, he’s a climber, and he’s not one to fear consequence or retribution. He has grown up in a trailer with his dad and his sister, the trailer park a tiny communal netherworld separated from the Kansas college town’s outer ring of student housing by a block of untapped woods that will soon be purchased and plowed and built on. For now, big fighting dogs roam unchallenged.

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Coffee Table

HEMNES, named after the Norwegian word for “home,” left with your husband when you asked him to move out. All through the days and weeks that followed, you pushed remnant furniture across hardwood floors, liberated desks and armchairs from parallels, and right angles, arranged rooms for friends who didn’t yet exist.

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