Old woman, you swore
/ once / on a soiled couch beneath forgotten coats beneath black trash bags stuffed with someone/ that you could /else’s cast-offs, debris from other lives clogging the storm drains of her own,/ survive the world / a rising tide of newspapers, magazines, catalogues from years/ by removing /and places and purveyors of things long since disappeared, and left/ from the world, /behind these pieces of themselves like capitalist sediment, a geology/ folding inward, /of materialism that some sociologist from the future might/ building a miniature /use to reconstruct how we drowned ourselves in our productivity, a / universe, navigating / slow type of suicide that we euphemized as progress or/ the narrow canyons / efficiency, and it is so falsely comforting at first, / of your own home, / but what we fail to see is that all of these become bricks and stones,/ learning which / stacked upon one another to form walls that can topple and/ led to water, /crush us just as well as protect us, and in the kitchen, a whole other /which to fridge / epoch can be read, meals beneath meals, salted with molds, / or shitter; / peppered with the corpses of vermin. If we are truly what we eat, then we / but someone should have told you / are mass- produced recyclables, quaking cartons / that no labyrinth / of lethal preservatives, prepared and packaged / tolerates its minotaur / for minimal effort because we are too busy stacking our / for very long—they all die / obsessions to notice that what we are
constructing / and are absorbed — / might resemble a burial chamber, or a catacomb. Deep in the deserts / that is, if the stench / of China archaeologists have discovered the underground tomb / never gets noticed / of a great emperor who was buried along with an army of clay warriors on / by a neighbor / horseback, dozens of slaves, food and
wine enough for months / concubines, young girls /
on a warm night during those first
/ of travel, rooms of riches, and several
/who are thought to have been
buried alive with their master. What / few weeks / were their final thoughts, encased by darkness and things? Were they / of oblivion. / happy? Proud? Terrified? None can know. These girls, this old woman / But tell me this— / had loved ones, grieving, and the surviving always need to know this much, / did you die even if they can understand nothing else of this strange self-suffocation. / feeling free?
Joe Kapitan writes fiction and creative nonfiction in Cleveland. Recent work has appeared in Spry, DIAGRAM, New World Writing, No Contact and X-R-A-Y. He is author of a short story collection, CAVES OF THE RUST BELT, and is a CNF reader for Atticus Review and Pithead Chapel.