I toss a napkin into the trash,
the one I used to dry my hands,
barely damp and utterly clean —
then suddenly in my vision gleams
scorched, squandered,
the true and only jewel,
beveled smooth by gravity’s pull.
I turn it in my fingers —
corroded patina.
O herald of hopelessness,
commence this coil!
Blue petals and crude oil;
the pungent narcissus in the dirt
of my brain. I am not afraid of death
but reckoning, shame.


Another poem

Nocturne in Black and Gold — The Falling Rocket, James McNeill Whistler, c. 1872–1877

In police school, I’ve heard, trainees
must be shot with the white-hot
tongue of a taser, just to taste it;

every muscle consumed
by electric teeth, only to be spit back out whole.

Momentary madness:
exorcism of the soul — which is to say, medicinal.

A far cry from the crater in my brain
that you left like a comet-tailed stroke.

Grief is hot and burns slow.

I eat my dinner that tastes like my day
to chew my sadness and swallow,
and try to catch fire tomorrow.


What is the half-life of an online presence?

One day, my boyfriend’s mom discovered she had a Twitter account. She’d never used it. She didn’t create it. Yet there it was, unquestionably hers. If you had Googled her name, it would’ve shown up at the top of your search results. And if you had clicked on her Twitter, perhaps looking for information about the local business she owned, you would’ve found instead a single, solitary tweet, commanding the page with the clout of a one-word poem: “Poop.”

It turned out the account had been made by her youngest daughter, most likely before she was old enough to spell…


On nostalgia and confronting a reality shaped by hypercapitalism

To be sure, I write this in an emotional hangover from listening to “The Greatest” on endless loop, the definitive track on Lana Del Rey’s new album and “obituary for America,” Norman Fucking Rockwell! Nostalgia is a hard theme to pull off without seeming trite. After all, our culture is saturated with the stuff, from Stranger Things and knee-jerk franchise reboots to the obsession with Millennial childhood that miraculously never grows tiresome. …


Is it the smoke on my tongue
Or the smell of you (heavy, gone)
That draws me to the window,
And with gaping chest I swallow
Sharp, dark air
To clear away the taste
And fill these hollow lungs.

I am learning how to lose
And how to wander fading halls—
My night ghost finds you stirring,
And wet in your eyes, wide
With the terror of seeing death,
Is the flicker of a nightlight
Sleeping beside you in your bed.

I consigned myself to teeter
On this high and rocky cliff which
Separates the souls below
Into slayers or the slain.
Decision brought me here,
So how I wish to fall
And be carried by the wind.


Broken promises of an ever-connected utopia we don’t even want

Thomas Cole, The Course of Empire — Destruction (1836)

Imagine a future in which your Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are so polluted with content by corporate interests that it’s nearly impossible to excavate the content by your friends and family: the real people with whom we were promised social media would make it easier to “stay connected.”

This future may not sound too distant. This is probably because, by now, most of us accept that social media is chiefly an avenue for big business marketing as easily as if it were an inborn, unquestionable fact — as though social media in its current form had been bestowed upon us…

Madeline McGary

Writer living in Minneapolis

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