yellow coffee-teeth, pepper beard:
hasn’t shaved in a week. this man
lives in a twin bed with
only fleeting dreams to dread.
he needs white noise to sleep: whale songs.
the elevator, old and needing repair,
makes the same sounds.
hearing them on his way,
he falls to sleeping and riding all day.
no one wakes him;
the drunk, they think, that drunk.
he goes to every floor,
staying in his sleeping corner,
til the depth of the night,
when everyone is home, except those few,
and the whales are quiet.
he wakes and walks out tiredly
not into his apartment, where he sleeps
on the tiled kitchen floor.
it’s nice and cool.
i sorried myself all my way home.
cats followed around me and grew into
a pack. i climbed the escape
into my window and they
piled over themselves to get up and through.
my ragged brown couch held
a heavy rest for me; i fell
slow into the lack of pillows,
into the springs and let the cats lay
on all around me. ‘it will be
like this,’ i said, ‘just all of
us, here and waiting.’
the couch got sudden hot; we
spread to the corners of the room, watching
it burn into itself. the ceiling
let its rain fall, the cats
left me for the children calling below.
on the old sidewalk, tired kids
brought their cats home.
where i cast my patience, i must, i
find, list the fools aloud, but when instead
i choose in patience to cast the fool myself,
some androgyny dissipates my predilection
to understand my pain and plight as narrative,
for when i undress my body from my soul, my mind
falls pale into an ocean which doesn’t believe
in land; there is no identity to pain,
pain is like joy, and joy is like the ocean;
so when again i find in isolate’s conception
the stalwart confusion that there is a life which should be lived,
i undress my soul again and drip long sugar
vaguely on my mind to sweeten breath’s significance,
so that i may see again the fool i am
to think that I am any character at all,
so when i look upon the ocean of the world,
i do not waste my bitter patience on foolish lists;
patiently, i see no fools at all.
Feston Altus is an Iowa City based novelist and poet, whose work has been published in East Jasmine Review, Down in the Dirt Magazine, Eunoia Review, as well as Crashtest magazine. Feston Altus is an undergraduate studying creative writing at the University of Iowa.