The Boiler

Glenn Shaheen

COURTESY AFLOAT

Here in the close quarters of strangers we call
a city I try to go unnoticed, hoping I will fail,
that somebody will notice me anyway. Ruinous
music and yet replicable. Breaths within my head
I’ve meant to take and hesitated. Harmonies,
melodies, there’s more beneath every song, little
mistakes in the recording, the errors more
interesting, the stumbles what make our moments,
hm, is it lived in? Some evidence, a human unsure
of the next fret, language a half step behind brain,
a competor, a competitor, whatever. Poets online,
I know them, I know their ad campaigns, they are
so sure about themselves, so thrilled and full of
a confidence or false bravado I can’t weave. I’m
just trying to figure out the gears beneath my skin
in a way that hopefully leaves me in one piece.
I’m an Arab and proud of my ability to cause
little quakes within white strangers at the airport, in
a Wendy’s late at night, them deflating a bit when
they hear my voice uncut by accent. I’m still
a bad man. I’m still a servant of Death. So, I’m
afraid, are you, suckling from the opulence of
the rotten teat of our country’s corpse. It’s ok,
we’re good at rot, we’re trained in it, the rich
assure us fester is a luxury, cheeses, delicacies,
little maggots jumping from the rind only add
to the experience. I used to want to make replicas
of disaster. Frozen moments in destruction,
miniature in text or plastics on the dresser. Get
close, look at this mess that was a human, a human
you could perhaps even stand to be around for ten
minutes. Well-honed images of bees, flowers,
the poets have dumped anger and insecurity
somewhere and I fell out too. Still writing little
writhing things onto the page, still wanting to
make ugly a beautiful world. Two notes a half step
apart. Each alone could tell a story but together
they tear the narrative apart. The momentum
of the skyscraper suicide who dies of fright before
hitting the ground. Do I believe in love, yes, do I
believe in destruction, well, I’m trying to master
it, to use it on my skin like a salve. A leftist with
a gun but I’d rather it was stolen, unbought,
manifested from a light night desire for no profit.
Give me a great man’s death and I can get behind
it if it saves a great many people. A hero only
interesting if she doesn’t act like a hero. Death
waning from sight, at least, the meaning of it.


Glenn Shaheen is the author of the poetry collections Predatory (U of Pitt Press, 2011), and Energy Corridor (U of Pitt Press, 2016); the flash fiction chapbook Unchecked Savagery (Ricochet Editions, 2013); and the flash fiction collection Carnivalia (Gold Wake, 2018).