Because of the boys with their bowl cuts.
Because of the dogs yelping into the dark woods
and the horses rolling their eyes white.
Because of the mothers smoking their nerves
down to the filter. Because of the trees
with their toothed loomings. Because inside
the red-boothed diner, or the high school gym
echoing with slam dunks, or the haze
of the howling dreamscape, terror
can always be filtered blue and scored.
Because when someone dies, maybe a lamp
in a log cabin goes black, or maybe
there’s blood and dark-stained rags, or maybe
there’s a bruised and blue body that turns out
not to be a body, or maybe someone simply
sparks into electricity and is gone, but no one
is ever making careful financial arrangements,
no one is laboring over a will unless
a long-lost son is on the scene to scavenge.
The word escapism is a misnomer.
It’s not a getting away. It’s a vanishing into.
That’s you, face hidden in the corner booth.
That’s you, the flickering desk lamp
at the county morgue. All around you,
someone else’s world unfolds. Everyone here
is in terrible danger. That is, everyone else.
—winner of the Editors’ Prize in Poetry for issue 28