Stephen M. Danos is a fourth year English major at the University of Iowa.
He has been published in JMWW: A Quarterly Journal for Writing and
Poetrybay. He was born in Providence, Rhode Island, moved to Upper
Montclair, New Jersey, and ended up in Naperville, Illinois.


When Steve said: 'weeds seem to be
the last natural entity in the suburbs,'

second, third, and fourth generations
of trees-from Osage orange to spinning

green helicopters pummeling windshields-
made themselves more noticeable, littering

as if fruits and nuts were no longer
extensions of their lifespan
like dead grass yellowed alongside

convicts picking up humility and Styrofoam.
All those trees took offense, and in

taking offense they defended
themselves with their fresh spring coats
as if to say they were protected in resistance.

Each growth screamed 'look at us, we belong
here!' Then Steve told me to call the landscapers,
to stop delving the purpose of weeds and focus on

a mother and daughter sticking their noses
in white blossoms as we drove by admiring.

The Empty Rhetoric in Your Advertisements

Each plug tells me to be something
different, to insert my power cord into another new way
of predetermined living, to labor and embrace leisure.
Days spent peddling my unborn children for blizzards
of ice cream, protection from 107 degree summer
heat. "The spirit of America calls from far corners."
In Nebraska, mammoth feed lots procure meats,
some genetically altered, just to ensure perpetual
satisfaction in civilians' dinner dishes. But when
I scan the vast land that's precisely what is seen.
I've already bought into the scheme. Once I dreamt
of fame and 'O! Fortuna' played as background-
fans cheered, jeering critics thanked
media markets. They've mediated every mark
to be earned, no matter the subject of study.
I mourn the end of clever ads. Now, actors smile
like patients at the orthodontist, foreign fingers
covered in latex pry apart cheeks from teeth. In childhood,
Like many other children I wanted to play god
At every likelihood. I picked out terrains to entertain
toy soldiers and superheroes, still wanting to live
an extraordinary existence simply
because no one truly can unless
they posses money or care nothing for it.
Once that boy, grown into his twenties, visits
Chicago's Art Institute purposefully for Lautrec's posters,
he'll overhear headphones hugging women's ears whose
necks are choked by pearls. The narrator restates
paragraphs on tablets that hang enormous on walls
as if to cater to all eye deficiencies save sightlessness
like The Noble Family's coat of arms hoisted, demanding allegiance.

An Early Present

"Santa Claus has lost a lot of weight.
and smells like the rotten celery buried
underneath lettuce heads and carrot
sticks secured in my vegetable crisper.
His sleigh must've been at the mechanic shop
because he graced our public bus. His spacecraft's shocks
were being enhanced due to awkward drop-offs on rooftops.
'I stopped buying into my so-called duty,' he winced. 'Kids
are too spoiled for my blood, these days. Everyone
needs a holiday here and there,' he rummaged
through his dust-stained backpack. 'Are you
looking for this year's list?' His eyes wandered,
replying before any sound seeped
from his mouth. 'Let me let you in on a little secret,'
he leaned closer across the autobus aisle,
'there never was a list.' I believed him."

Where We Are


Satellite dish on sports night,
jellyfish robbed of crystal-clear wisps, flower
aimed away from rays. Receptors plugged in
carousers slamming digits down on
counters. Reverse
slingshot cocked, ready, to fire fleeting failures
into unknown dimensions spied by space stations.
invisible laser beam slices

flight paths, splitting geese Vs
into livid eyebrows-broken arrow.
Pair of pigeons flutters lazy-like on
neighboring perch, wanton of birch or baths,
settle rooftop's public space-
flatbed at truck-stop shipping
liquors, beers, fears, furniture
spurning, spun like a pinwheel.


I envy, in truth, your vineyard looting concealed in concrete gardens wedded to
brick. Words die like honeybees after sting, glinted salt water, lasting, stars of the sea.
Soon ants will march upon verandas, trampling careful weeds, scrounging scraps of
dumpster-quality cheeseburgers, pleased like a drifter thumbing across divided highways.
Fast on their mastered high-wire circus act. No escape to the north, a different war, raw
deal heeds leadership. First Kabul, then Beirut political rifts
flirting with hand-grenades.

Now, the rain peels off clouds, street sleepers flooded.
Tongue prods drops, a wand at dawn-finer than chocolate-water cascading down
toilets or canteens crammed with desert dust. Grassy gloss gestures toward tomorrow.
I envy the commodity, the free-flowing felicity and feng shui of nature's accommodation.
It's all double-talk. The cafe face harbors an armada of drunks,
oozing past the entrance sentries, their banter bouncing down alleyways.

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