Consider your body (when you’re ready); render it a mountain.
Consider the thoughts floating through your head, as if in a stream (frozen over now).
Take yourself to your favorite place(—)in your mind.
If during your practice you hear the sound of a plane outside, crash the plane, moment by moment by moment.
Remember you are totally normal.
If you smell the soft air of a laundry-room vent, burn the clothes.
Think of the number of eyes upon you at any given moment.
If you find yourself drifting off, engage in this sweet neuron exercise; this betterment lesson.
Learn not to misconstrue, muddle, mislay.
Your breath becomes you in this comfortable fall-awake station.
Where are you now?
(wavy calcite curtains with their brown striations)
(a blueberry streak across notebook paper)
(a favorable nothingness)
Become the rubbery pliability of the philodendron’s new leaf.
Letting go here, too.
(but three flies could consume a horse cadaver as rapidly as a lion could, remember?)
(at any moment you might get the disease that makes you believe you are dead)
(every cell in your body is aching now and always)
Heaviness, lightness, warmth.
A backyard of black umbrellas, all open.
Come back to the pleasant present, mutter to mumble to murmur.
And what else?
You’re solving the problem for yourself.
Coaching the ghost.
Cataloging your lifestyle symptoms.
Say it: A is for autonomy.
Are You Doomed?
Myopia and mania and melancholia.
Yes, You’re Doomed.
In a moment you will hear the sound of a bell.
Ode to Odor
That purring thunder unfurled slowlike at dawn. An omen spit it out, as omens tend to do. I
say wow wow wow; you say an incredibly visceral nightmare reminiscent of—
Your ragged breaths scoff at the word replenish. Narrow chasm in the chopped stalk of the
throat. Aren’t you so weary of being told the scent of rain plus pavement is called petrichor? I ask.
But you’ve never heard the term in your life.
In a sense, smell haunts you most convincingly. The new perfume is grandmother’s walk-in
closet. Threads of mothball cardigans stretching knowingly into the future.
Artisan candlemakers are busy brewing their molten memory vats of tobacco-and-old-records
scent, a trigger for the painfully twee. Though watch how I slouch toward cedar and
moonlight candles. Yes poets the moon smells like a late wet tire swing. Too real—give me
birthday-cake pungency that smells like no true earthly thing.
We’ve arrived at the future. We can send digital smells to our friends. The first one they sent
was of a champagne and passion fruit macaron. From across town I beam you a memory
rigged to rile. Essence of black shattered chestnuts scattered in the alley after heavy rain. In
response you send me a recording of thundersound like the tearing off of a moving-box flap.
I can only guess you misconstrued some or all of our exchange.
Still, when you’re around, the cruel spoors gather, are sucked past the event horizons of my
nostrils. Dark brain looping hues, grasses, spools, juices, recipes to woo.
Let me penetrate your thermal boundary layer. That convection of heat and scent that climbs
hand over hand up your body. Smell blooms: plume of soft light all around. Dead-skin rafts,
touting their own vapor spheres, float from your limbs like paper lanterns. Carrying some
sort of wish—if only you’re not set aflame—for absorption, settling, bond.
KRISTEN STEENBEEKE is an MFA candidate in poetry at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she received the Rona Jaffe Foundation Fellowship. She was the winner of the 2017 Indiana Review Poetry Prize, judged by Ross Gay, and has been published in Pleiades, Tin House blog, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Poetry Northwest, and other places. She was recently a finalist in Mid-American Review’s Fineline Competition and Third Coast’s Poetry Prize. She still calls Seattle home.
Photo credit: Katrin Braga