Value

The Lifesavers showed up to Sherri Hill’s apartment bright and early the morning of June 21st. Though her mother argued and protested, “She’s only 10,” both she and the Lifesavers knew that arguing was moot. Sherri was a match. That was that. Lifesaver KS-392 looking Sherri’s mother in the eyes and used her empathy training judiciously, “I understand how you’re feeling. My mother-in-law was matched last year and she took it like a true patriot: steel-eyed and stoic. You can trust us. We deal with this every day. We’ll have —” here KS-392 paused to look at her phone, “— uh…Sherri…yes, we’ll have Sherri back here tonight. It’s the Lifesaver guarantee. The clocks are always ticking for us.” 

Sherri, for her part, did not struggle with the Lifesavers. She sat in the back of the blue and and white striped van and quietly watched the trees and the joggers and the cars go by. KS-392 looked at Sherri in the rear-view mirror. “You’re doing great, Sherri. Nothing to be scared of.” Sherri replied, “I’m not scared. We learned about matching in school. Plus, momma says in our family we have take care of each other.” “Hey, that’s a great attitude to have. I’m real proud of you. We’ll have you back home in your own bed tonight and I’ll be sure to tell your momma how excited you were to give the gift of life.” “Well, I’m not excited. I’m just not scared.” Sherri turned her gaze back to the window. KS-392 said, “You know what I mean. I’ll tell your momma what a good kid you are.” “OK,” said Sherri.

KS-392 eased back in the passenger seat while KS-876 drove in silence. He was always quiet. He didn’t seem too thrown by the fact that they’d had to pick up a ten-year-old. Truth told, he’d never seem too thrown by anything as far as KS-392 could remember; the pregnant lady, the quadriplegic, the young woman so neurodivergent that they’d had to tranquilize her first. The law was the law. If you matched, you slashed. Macabre meme, but inescapable. KS-392 hated when she had to pick up kids. She’d always felt ten was too young even though they were always right back home as promised. Since becoming a Lifesaver she’d picked up 1-2 thousand matches, maybe. Only a handful of kids. No, she didn’t like it. But KS-876? Just another day in the van. She’d long-since learned not to talk with him about it.

392 had been matched herself last 4th of July. Perfect timing. Duty to God, Country, fellow Citizen. Home in time for fireworks. Her mother had been a donor before conscription, when recovery could take 4-6 days. But her mother hated the ruling. Congress knew that would be a non-starter when it came time to legislate life-saving. The impact to productivity allowed for too much corporate pushback. 392 didn’t know where her kidney had gone. Medical privacy rules and all. 392 had done what her country had asked. No complaints. No regrets. She stared at the road ahead then glanced in the rear-view toward Sherri. I wasn’t ten years old, though, damn it. God, she hated when kids got caught up in this. It complicated what she thought she was doing.

*****

Lucille von Klempf had elected to have the procedure at home. Most recipients elected to have the procedure at home. Lucille waited without a whisper, surrounded by staff, family, and the familiar soft, silky sheets that adorned her four-post bed. The hospital’s operating crew were en route as were the Lifesavers. So convenient. When the doctor told Lucille that her kidneys were going sour fast, they’d not even discussed dialysis or other available options for maintaining function. The choice was no choice and that was the right choice; to live, to live, to live. A transplant. It’s what Lucille wanted. It’s what her doctors recommended. Had the situation been reversed, surely she would have matched with a salute and a smile.

The surgery team arrived first and started by setting up their mobile station in the modest alcove that adjoined Lucille’s bedroom. The team begin to prep Lucille’s body: swabbing and sticking, taping everything in place. All activity carefully timed just for this particular instance of lifesaving. The surgery team arrived only a few minutes ahead of the Lifesavers (measured by a next-gen location tracking algorithm). This allowed for prep, sanitization, and sedation of the recipient before the surgery team split into an extraction team and a replacement team before the Lifesavers arrived. In ideal conditions, the matched were only under the knife for less than 15 minutes, since the law stipulated certain time constraints, based upon the recipient’s existing health condition, the matched’s occupation, and other such variables. Standard protocol had the procedure team sedating the recipient within 45 minutes of arrival. Standard protocol had the matched arriving between 14-23 minutes after sedation. Clocks are always ticking.

Surprisingly, today the Lifesavers were late and that meant a dock of pay for this run. $100 a minute. Clocks are always ticking.

*****

The tracking units had no visual explanation for the van’s route deviation. The van’s internal cameras had been on the fritz for over a month now. No explanation at all. And that’s how 392 felt: without explanation. Something had driven her to take over the wheel from 876. Something that she’d describe as an intuition, but which she could never explain to a court of law. Now 876 was on the floor of the van, unconscious, while 392 drove and Sherri Hill stared at her. 392 didn’t have much of a plan either. She was taking Sherri back home, albeith by a very circuitous route to avoid tipping off HQ altogether. Once HQ found out, 392 would lose control of the van. 392 wasn’t the first Lifesaver to get cold feet.

392 called out, “Hey Phone: call Mom.” The phone complied and 392’s mother answered.

“Hello, Cassie. Aren’t you supposed to be working?”

“Yes, I am working, Mom. I had to pick up a little girl today.”

“Oh – oh no. That’s – oh no. How did it go?”

“Umm…well, she’s still in the van and I’m running about 2 minutes behind schedule – aaaaand, after we get off the phone I’m going to drive her home and then I’m going to have to run. And I wanted to tell you I love you because I don’t think this will end well, however it ends.”

“Cass, this whole thing was never gonna end well, was it?”

“No. No, I suppose not. I just wanted to do the right thing – want to do the right thing. But I’m not sure I understand what that is.”

“It’s a piss-poor understanding of how right and wrong work that got us here and that’s the shame of it. Get that little girl home, Cassie. Then run. Run fast.”

“I will. I love you.”

“I love you, too.” 392 hung up the phone and looked in the rearview. “Ready to go home?”

Sherri nodded. “What are they gonna do to you?” she asked.

“I guess we’ll find out when they catch me.”

“Do I gotta run too?” Sherri asked. 

392 didn’t answer. As the van approached Sherri’s apartment, the dashboard lit up with a blue/white light and a soft voice filled the vehicle: “Auto-pilot engaged.” 392 put the van in neutral, killed the engine, and steered the vehicle to the side of the road. She jumped out of the van and into the street. She pulled on the passenger door handle but found it locked. “Climb out my door, Sherri!” 392 yelled at the deeply tinted windows. The front door slammed shut and the van’s engine sprung back to life. 392 banged on the windows and screamed. The van pulled away from the curb and 392 ran alongside it, then behind it, until the van vanished into traffic. 

From afar, 392 heard the sounds of sirens. She ran. She ran fast.

Value

2 Days Until 24 in 24

Some inquisitive readers have emailed about the rules of the challenge. Since there’s nothing at stake – there are no bloody rules! However, this is how I’m approaching the task: starting at 9AM CST on 3/25/22, I will post a poem written sometime the hour preceding. Then, at the top of every hour for the twenty-four hours, I will post a poem written sometime the hour preceding. I don’t plan to write three or four and then use WordPress’s scheduler. Just a poem an hour every hour for twenty-four hours.

I do hope some of you play along, too!

Another question someone asked is “Why?” I have no good reason for this – no charity nor cause. It’s simply a way to channel hypergraphic energy and experiment with sleep deprivation to see what results. That’s it. Simple, silly fun. Write hard.

2 Days Until 24 in 24

Haiku for Instagram Poetry

What the fucking fuck?

These are just aphorisms!

There’s no literary devices at all and completely banal observations like “I have a heart. Before you, it beat like a normal heart does according to science,” and look hey if you dig on it – that ain’t no thang but a chicken wang – you keep on reading and loving it and enjoy but got-damn! I don’t get it. You give me an Insta Poet writing this zzzzzzzzzz and I will provide you the name of writer you can read who shows (not tells!) what it means to express something hard/tragic/magic/beautiful using artful language, rather than pedestrian sentences enjambed for no good reason. I mean, not even any imagery, like the most basic of poetic devices – literally, “You were my dog, but I am cat person #poetryisnotdead.” Not yet, but you’re doing a bang-up job of killing it, motherfuckers!

Tears fall. Toilets flush.

(Sorry you had to bear witness to my breakdown. And look, I know from bad poetry. I’m the guy who wrote an entire book of sonnets about your mom and composed an ode to a miniature version of Milli Vanilli hiding out in my underwear drawer, but yesterday I clicked on an article about Instagram poets to follow for Poetry Day and I wish I hadn’t. Can someone explain the appeal?)

Haiku for Instagram Poetry

This Love Tonight

I don’t wanna call it a night.
I don’t wanna call it a day.
I just want this forever,
what we got here tonight.
This love, this love, this love.
Thank god, we got this love tonight.

Someday, it will be different.
I guarantee, just wait and see.
I’ll be old and you’ll be bored.
But I won’t wanna take it back.
No, I won’t wanna take it back.

So let’s stay here forever.
Let’s do it all over again and again.
Let’s feel each other tremble.
Let’s dissolve imagined boundaries.
Let’s build countless, hidden empires
over and over again and again.

Let’s become twin gods together.

Let’s find that silent space
where there are no words to share,
grow intertwined like trees
that only fire can rage through.
I will deny you nothing ever.
Ever.

Everything about you 
fits where I am hollow.
Oh god, I swear I’m flying
despite the weakness in my knees.

This Love Tonight

The Hunt

Let me know 
what you think
about my new
video game idea:

It’s a 4-D action/adventure, socio-politico, platformer
set in a randomly-iterated universe using a believable physics engine.

You play
as a butterfly
who wants to retire
to its plush room
every night, and spend
those nights
in deep thought
about how
to make its room
more cozy.

The room has a library
and dungeons and
a swimming pool
filled with bumblebees.

Every morning
the player decides
what the butterfly needs
to say
to face
the day.

After the player chooses
the morning affirmation,
the player
molds the world
into magical items
to sell
at the witch market.

I call the game The Hunt because
as play progresses
the player
comes to realize
that the grim reaper
is chasing a bounty
on the butterfly’s
tiny, antennaed head.

The player
will never
discover
who placed
the bounty.

The Hunt has one mode:
Player vs. Death.

The butterfly
has many powers
that impact
the game universe
so
the player
must hold
out hope
for excitement
and adventure
and mystery
and surprise
and terror,
always terror.
The Hunt

Proprioception

I'm out my mind!
I'm out of my head!
I'm out of my life!
What a scene, this dream!

I wanna show you!
I wanna be your friend!
Wanna be that one that can be!

No,
that’s not really what I meant to say…

I just wanna ask…
I wanna go out on a limb…
Can we pose together?

I mean, can I get a yoga date?
Please, please can I get a yoga date?

Damn, all I wanna
Is to share a few asanas,
So can I get a yoga date with you?

I'm out of my mind!
I'm out of my head!
I need a yoke
to something greater in this lifetime!

It's like the magic of the wind
being so flexible.
You were expecting a rhyme here
Like “gurusexual”?

Nah, I just wanna yoga date with you.
Yeah, I just wanna stretch next to you.
For real, I wanna bend right next to you.
Oh, how I wanna wanna,
Sa-sav-asana next to you.
I just wanna yoga date with you.


Proprioception

Country Lament #223,804

You were the hungry one.

You were the ornery one;

the haunted one that survived…

the only one I ever loved.

You were the hopeful one. 

You were the faithful one;

the sacred one I waited for…

the only, only one.

Now I know without you

how the slow days go so lonely.

Now I know without you

 how lonely days go slow.

Now I know how isolation

spreads everywhere like cancer.

Now I know how it feels to be

some fruit left on the vine…

long past picking time.

You were the precious one 

I can’t let go of.

You were the cautious one 

I couldn’t fool.

You left me lifetimes

to remember, darling.

Now I’m living lifetimes

of over-ripe regret.

Country Lament #223,804