1. A WHITE COLLAR LIFE
The welfare of the workers has been put
In my hands after my leadership skills
We're recognized while tending a hot grill.
I still don’t know what the Company sells
But I fake it while emphasizing good
Customer service. Positive thinking
Is our strategy. There’s a mean girl who’s
Gunning for my job. She knows somehow dark
Secrets. My salary, in coins, is too
Heavy. I offload it to bribe the cops.
2. MY VERY PRESENCE
I’m six years old but, oddly, have a wife
In her hot 40s. She wants to make love.
Lincoln Logs litter the floor, but the pieces
I need to put a roof on my cabin
Are gone. Can I finish it with Legos,
I wonder. Wife says, You’re 90 years old!
And I am, and she wants to make love. Well,
Turns out, my very presence elicits
Orgasm! I’m gratified, but Wife says
Screw my presence, she wants a bungalow.
3. THE PERFECT JOB
The space is bright, without visible walls,
Filled with fresh air, with room to spread
My muscular arms. My crisp, white lab coat
Is the envy of my disembodied colleagues,
Who gingerly present me butterflies
Whose flights are done. I am the transfixer:
Memorializing each brilliant,
Flitting life by pinning their delicate
Bodies onto a black background with pins
Of light indistinguishable from stars.
4. FIRST FLIGHT
By throwing all my lean mass into my
Upthrust arms, like squeezing a tubular
Balloon from one end, I gently lift off
From the dirt expanse that was our playground,
Which lay beside measured rows of desert
Date palms, and I rise above the game I
Can’t play because no one explains the rules.
Kids say the date grove’s full of scorpions—
Above the fronds, I can see it’s safe.
You are free, I shout, to play hide and seek.
5. THIRTEEN YEARS OLD
I wind up assisting the neighborhood’s
Favorite babysitter. She is my
Mentor, and I can’t let her know about
My crush. I rock a crying baby and
She puts it to sleep with a touch. Next she
Shows me how to rummage all the drawers
And cabinets for the parents’ secrets—
We find prescription pills, dildos and guns.
I’m worried she’ll find the love note I wrote,
Foolishly lost in the kitchen, and laugh.
6. MY LEGACY
Catty-corner at an intersection
In the gaudiest section of Scottsdale
Are the competing sperm banks trying to
Outbid each other for my stuff. I’m in
The driver’s seat, figuratively and
Literally, negotiating by
Bullhorn from my restored Lincoln Mark V.
Look how perfect his kids turned out, they say—
Smart and beautiful! Women from the banks
Line up, eager to get mine without me.
7. THE MEANING OF OWLS
Owls turn up in my initiation
Dreams—in transitions, like twilights, when owls
Stake out first-string hunting spots. Lakota
Custom says death follows them. To the Greeks,
Owl was the familiar to Wisdom. In
Truth, they are monstrous beauties, evolved with
Asymmetrical skulls and silent flight.
They mess their nests with filth and bones. In their
Own woods, they’re apex predators. Greek and
Lakota are right—nothing escapes them.
8. PUT ON THE SPOT
The game show host, a specter of unknown
Moral bearing, puts me on the spot in
An elimination round. The topic
Is “Things that Are Sifted.” I think, goodbye,
Grand prize. My gut tightens and hands shake. I’m
Stumped—until—flour and sand—and the tension builds,
Then, Starlight! Rain! Justice, faith, the poor!
Every noun that I could ever love
Is an answer. The audience starts the
Wave. I prove that I know each of their names.
9. MOVING DAY
The moving-day dream starts with the movie
Of Mom throwing out that half-full box of
Cap’n Crunch. Something’s wrong with this picture.
Unlike in life, in the dream I know we’re
Walking away from the first house, and I
Take my time gathering all the dream things
I had hidden in dream nooks and crannies.
This dream visits often. Always when I
Wake I question where my dream things are now,
Then wonder what they are, were, or will be.
10. TRUE STORY
The night before we told the children I
Was leaving, I finished moonlighting at
3 A.M. and fell onto a cot in
The basement with a prayer: Show me the
Right thing to do. Crazy owl dreams followed—
They were flocking on a playground while my
Wife gave birth. Up early so I could rouse
The small one, I was tongue-tied when she said
She’d had a dream: She’d gone out to play but
Stinky owls stopped her. Hell of an answer.
Peter Junker lives in Atlanta, GA. His book "Things Will Get Worse" was published by Kudzu Leaf Press in October, 2019.