Ode to Fluorescent Light

Time capsule from a future

    without nuance. Extinguisher

        of shadow

and suggestion. Standardized

    as tests. Your long beads

        necklace hallways,

pimping bureaucracy.

    You won’t stop touching

        the linoleum.

When we enter empty

    rooms, your cold body

        arcs. Why does living skin


make you queasy? You’re white

    on the inside––blind sclera,

        witnessing. You remain


in tilted mirrors and waiting rooms

    with all the other

        unanswered prayers.

You hum radiation

    a lullaby. Along night freeways,

        your slugs of light


line the underbelly

    of concrete spaces. You’re buzz

        of skinned knees,

purse straps

    gone slack, hiss

        of aerosol caps. Patient,

you’re everywhere,

    background as god.

        Anyone can turn you on.


Drive like your kids live here.

Drive like Angelina Jolie’s kids live here.

Drive like you could afford to live here, with your kids.

Drive like you have kids.

Drive like Miss Palmer, the kindergarten teacher who let you play inside when the other kids were too loud, lives here.

Drive like your heart surgeon lives here.

Drive like the Dali Lama lives here, in his marigold robes and floppy gardening hat, bowing to flowers.

Drive like your lost cat lives here.

Drive like the last baby white rhino lives here.

Drive like all the dead languages live here.

Drive like Gerard Manley Hopkins and Prince live here, sharing a duplex and a karaoke machine.

Drive like your worst mistakes don’t know the way here.

Drive like you want to be going where you’re going.

Drive like you learned what you needed to know in time.

Drive like there’s time.

Drive like my kids live here, because I need your help to keep them safe, because I cannot keep them safe––not them, not the vanishing glaciers, not the dying oaks, not even the small owls burrowing in the empty corner lot.

Drive like that lot’s earth can still hold rain, still has roots and nematodes and something to give.

Drive like you have something to give.

Drive like whether or not you have kids you have something to give, and you give it,
and it’s evening, and cool, and the street is wide, and the kids playing in it see you and yell “CAR!” and scatter and wait for you to pass, and as you do all the sprinklers come on and are lit by low sun, and the kids are now whooping through shadow and dazzle, and Gerry’s laying rhymes into a gold Colt 9 mic, and the unpronounceable one’s strutting and riffing in his suit of clouds, and the Dali Lama’s smiling at droplets jeweling the petals, and even Angie’s propping her tired feet up on the peeling porch rail, waving to Miss P and watching her kids, who are safe, who are twirling and leaping through fountains of light, and we’re all of us going to be all right, now, all right.


Copyright © 2019, Otis Nebula Press. All rights reserved.


Erin Redfern’s work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in the New Ohio Review, Fire & Rain: Ecopoetry of California (Scarlet Tanager Books), DMQ Review, and New Voices: Contemporary Writers Confronting the Holocaust (New Voices Project). Her chapbook is Spellbreaking and Other Life Skills (Blue Lyra Press Delphi Series). www.erinredfern.net