Reading at Marjorie Perloff’s

Brian Kim Stefans

There are mysterious persons, friend,

who greet you warmly, but then stare back

at you, after the most brief, impartial


hello, with visions, it appears

of skin splitting beneath razor, or rape

of their small, unguarded daughter.


Hollowed-out eyes suddenly grace

their faces when you thought a comic’s

doh! was all that was called for, or


at least the neutral mask of a bearded

physics scholar. Neutrality, however, seems

a rare quantity in this parking lot,


and the hour or two that lie ahead

with this accuser—insufferable. Bring out

the drinks, oil this creaking boat


caught between the twin coasts of

boredom and hate, with no hope of

offshore gambling to infraternize the time!


A half hour later, the reading’s done, and

no one’s lost, violated, or beheaded

by rusty machete, or tattooed with streams


of burning oil, nor has the host

announced your recent return from Sing Sing

after pasting your face on a broadsheet titled


Meghan’s Law. But the jury’s still out

for the one with the paranoaic leer,

apostrophes around the exit, and with


no passion for adventure among the illegible

natives, my friend, the game seems fixed,

two steps forward being the sole way


out, and no hope of the cudgel’s blow.


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