The woman is dying. The doctor
periodically steps from a corner
with morphine. He regrets
the absence of nurses, other treatment,
more interesting cases,
and perhaps mortality itself;
his regret presents as annoyance.
The man in a wheelchair
wants to protect the woman,
in the moments she opens her eyes,
from the room and its many sad or scary
faces. And so he
sits close to her and holds her hand and keeps
his gaze on her, though he isn’t
(as the doctor has established) a close relative.
Light comes from a range
of throwaway lamps. At least there are no buzzing,
sepulchral fluorescents. At least there’s power.
After trying all vacant chairs,
a boy sits on a stool…
One of the top reasons I’ve heard for why people don’t read is because they don’t have enough time; they work full-time, have a family, and/or their schedules are otherwise filled up with extracurricular activities. In an effort to guide those who have a desire to read but not the time, I’ve compiled the following list of my top eight books under 200 pages. Feel free to let me know how many you’ve read, or if you have any other suggestions!
by George Orwell
This was a book I didn’t appreciate until I was older. I remember reading it in high school and thinking, What does this book about talking animals have anything to do with the government? When I read it again at age 30, I had a completely different take-away.
Set on an English farm, Animal Farm focuses on the lives of the animals who live there. After being mistreated and reared as slaves for their whole lives, the animals rebel against their owners and embark on a mission to create progress, justice, and equality. With catchphrases such as “All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others” and “Four legs good, two legs bad,” Animal Farm is a clear satire of the Russian Communist system in place during its production.…
Last night I dreamed I died and went
to hell. I have no idea why I went to hell—
I’ve been a good girl.
Well, maybe it had something to do
with my fib about the accident.
A train did not really derail.
Its caboose did not come loose
like a fishtail whipping
around, wrecking my car.
No, that fishtail was some man’s hand
a slap on passenger seat
where someone else’s—
not mine, I’ve been a good girl—
beer can sat on my lap
and then rolled all over the upholstery
and then spilled all over the floorboard
all over my smoke-filled clothes—
from his cigarettes, need I remind you
I’ve been a good girl. But the spin made me
naked, my body now misaligned
as this stranger’s hand-slap slide
down to flatten tire around
my waist, down past
my thighs like a slippery
fish out of water.
I was forced to leave my car and race
to the convenience store on the corner
to buy some ice—and no,
it wasn’t for the train conductor,
I’ve been a good girl. I just needed
to escape the claustrophobic way I felt
inside that closed-up space,
needed relief from probing hands
needed to free myself from being a bad girl—
because really, I’m good—
needed to escape my living hell.…
A frail old man treks into the hamlet, his filthy, grotesque rags covering only a miniscule portion of his body. His long hair protrudes beneath his knees, and a scent similar to that of a skunk emanates from the fragments of his crude clothing. The flesh of this man is reduced to the outlandish outlines of bones.
Upon his entrance the hamlet morphs into pure silence, the sun illuminating the various wrinkles dwelling upon his withered brown skin. The villagers evacuate to avoid his presence. Perhaps the villagers view him like a wild beast, a presence of gut-ripping fear, a monstrosity. Or perhaps the villagers view him like a fungus, a contagion of disgust and malaise.…
The awning over the table has a hole in it; a tear that is the precise shape of nothing. Absolutely nothing the woman can think of would fit into that space. It is mid-morning, but the moon is out, a shadow-skull in the hot and brittle day. She has never seen a sky less blue.
Across from the woman sits another woman, the friend of the first woman. The friend is talking; words are climbing out of her mouth like ugly little men. The woman nods along. Ugly creatures climb out of her own mouth in response. The ugly things sit on the table. They kick off their ugly shoes. Wiggle their ugly toes. The woman looks away. She wishes there were something she wanted. Expensive sunglasses, social justice, a cheeseburger, a child… anything really. Anything that would hold her in her days.…