Post-Madonna, I Tried Not to Look Afraid


I took it because my name was on it.

It had sprinkles on top.

They said it would make me feel better.

I couldn’t just leave it there, blowing bubbles in the surf.

I took it in because of my upbringing.

I took it easily, with one finger pressed to my chin.

I folded it into my skin.

It was the color of the sky in Iowa in July.

I took it in 1987, 1988, and 1989.

It was the only shell on the empty beach.

I felt as thin and cloudy as waxed paper.

It curled up in my hand like a fiddlehead.

I posed, a material girl, arms akimbo.

I didn’t know how to let it go.


Re: Meetings


The meeting will start at 4:13 sharp.

Bring your laptop, ID badge, three unvarnished pinecones

and one jagged shard of glass. The purpose

of the meeting will be revealed at the meeting.

Consultants will consult with you at the meeting.

Meetings will be held alternate Wednesdays, second Fridays,

odd Tuesdays, even Thursdays, and all Mondays, rain or shine.

Do not question the meetings.

All morning meetings will involve mourning the results of earlier meetings.

All afternoon meetings will be held underground.

Meetings are essential to our progress as longer

daylight hours are essential to the petunia seeds’ sprouting.

If two of us are in a room, it is a meeting.

If four of us are in a room, it could be two meetings.

If forty-seven of us are in a room, the meetings will have meetings.

Will you stand up and be recognized at this meeting?

The female cardinal and the male cardinal cross paths

under the crabapple tree without meeting.

Be sure to pencil in all 11,057 meetings on your calendar.

Look to your left and to your right. One of these people

will spontaneously combust by the end of this meeting—

Do not be alarmed; this is a cost-saving measure.

Please, no eating or drinking in the meeting room.

Punishment will be meted out at that meeting.

You are required to take notes with the pointed end

of a seashell dipped in melted snow at every meeting.

Remember: Life is long, and meetings are fleeting.

In the film, the camera panned slowly through

the crowd to show two lovers’ eyes meeting.

There is no meat at this meeting.

You have been appointed to figure out the point

of the meeting in Ballroom A.

You must meet expectations and expect more meetings.

Can you feel your heart beating, meeting after meeting?

Do not, under any circumstances, even when sweating

bullets, reveal any of the bullet points shot at this meeting.

Always applaud when greeting the next speaker.

If there is not enough seating, you will stand for this meeting,

and be grateful. When this meeting concludes,

please proceed down the hall to your left

and into the next meeting.


Shoshana Kertesz

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


Gwen Hart teaches writing at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. Her second poetry collection, The Empress of Kisses, won the X.J. Kennedy Poetry Prize from Texas Review Press. She contributes regularly to panels on Gen X issues at the Popular Culture Association conference.