Travis Stephens

Reports today of a poetry spill on the 5.
Highway Patrol has all lanes blocked, a real
mess in both directions. It was a truck
which somehow left the highway to fly
nearly over the railings to the open fields.
They are treating it as a possible
terrorist incident. This was highly refined
poetry. PhD quality stuff.

We’ve all become used to poetry. As I drive the
girls to school we pass tankers of it, warehouses and
that big MFA factory. It’s all part of the literary industrial complex.
The nine-year-old, fatalistic, points at hurried,
unmarked vans. “That one. It could be carrying sonnets.”

No, Elizabeth.” I say, “Don’t scare your little sister.”

At the spill, even before the cleanup crews,
there are protesters. One stands before the
camera in a Cowboys jersey.
It’s poison,” she says. “No one even knows
how much poetry is too much. How many
parts per million. They give you a little when
you’re in grade school and next thing you
know you’ve got shelves of the stuff.”
Reporter: “What should be done?”
Ban it.”
Reporter: “But there has always been poetry. It’s
mentioned in the Bible.”
Then control it. Keep it in silos somewhere like Minnesota
or North Dakota where there are no people.”

To become certified a HAZ-LIT Response Team
must take 16 hours of training with an annual refresher.
Receive a three-ring binder and certificate.
First you must learn to correctly identify poetry.
Some of it is easy. Haiku. Villanelle. You learn
to look for indicators: iambic pentameter, trochee.
It is the free verse that gives people the most trouble.
It comes in many permutations. It mutates.
I have read that scientist have found
some in everything we eat. In the soil.
Scraps of paper blown through fences. In
the sweet flesh of Montana trout.
Traces remain in stoppered amphoras
beneath the Aegean. Bits of poetry
in every word we say

Travis Stephens is a tugboat captain who resides with his family in California. A graduate of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, recent credits include: GYROSCOPE REVIEW, 2RIVER, GRAVITAS, SHEILA-NA-GIG, RAW ART REVIEW, TINY SEED LITERARY JOURNAL, APEIRON REVIEW, and THE DEAD MULE SCHOOL OF SOUTHERN LITERATURE.

© Variant Literature Inc 2021