Fear Not (Provided You Fear)

Jacqueline Waters


A few spindly people walk across the dark marsh to whatever miserable jobs await them

“good morning” for lunch a burrito

wrapped in toilet paper and microwaved

break room pail full

of UPC codes

their vertical blinds

thrust to the sides

of narrow windows

—and you can’t forget

having to participate

in that phony hug

you think perhaps

she opened her arms

just to get out

of meeting your eyes

and you walked in

to her loose embrace

everything closing

around the lacquered sticks

crossed to hold up her hair

and you said “a long goodbye”

to about half your self-respect

and leaned in

as far as she would have you

O unimportant Mars

with your shell of frozen dishwater, why

do you think she did it?

Maybe she’d read something

about embracing your dislikes

or that which you pity

since you were all alone

at what had become a party

you stuck out

the New Yorker in California

your jokes taken seriously

though maybe you just seemed like a joker

and she thought “I’ll make a joke of her”

like if one of us strikes oil

the other drills at once

lest the first

drain the pool


Jacqueline Waters’ One Sleeps the Other Doesn’t was published by Ugly Duckling Presse. She is the author of one previous collection, A Minute without Danger (Adventures in Poetry), and edits The Physiocrats, a pamphlet press.