TREADMILL, HIGH WIRE, THRESHOLD
Treadmill: you must always climb,
never pause nor peer back
for fear of falling off
only to find no
plank to hop back
on. On and on,
worn steps loom before the blisters
of your feet, your hypnotized eyes.
Maybe sprint if you can’t spy an off-ramp--
better to provide a break, become the stubborn
femur that strips gears in the boss’s wheel
than to march into your own collapse.
High wire: everything hinges on how keen
the nerves in your arches prove
as they sight-read one thin cable.
No time to ponder weighty If’s--
this is when you find yourself
reduced to envying bat claws.
Safety nets wheeled in place
deceive gawkers who gasp, but
your leg hairs know if you fall
you’ve lost your means.
Threshold: your heels could stay glued to linoleum.
Your right foot could line up with the sill’s grain,
but stray no sliver past.
You could dip big toe into maybe
shag rug, greener turf, ice floe--
try on frostbite, test out tickle.
You could pogo over, spring into
an unmapped gap or old trap.
You could step lightly, find out if
you get free or get caught.
If I plane it down to “Hi,"
might that slip me
through one more day?
Or is “Hello” more
in line with office-ese?
“Good morning, Madam,” would hint at
the inequality between us.
Better to kick over a can of scarlet
paint (and I don’t mean latex)
against your cubicle wall.
That could be blamed on accident.
Were you offended
by a required comma
you didn’t hear? Please
help yourself to my red pen.
I’ve retrofitted my mouth
into a mitre box.
on my part would be, at best, impolite
and could be read as sullen.
Unless you do the talking.
Surely I should have no opinions
even if they dovetail yours
because yours will change
one phrase hence
and leave my jigsawed
Steven Riel is the author of one full-length collection of poetry, Fellow Odd Fellow, published by Trio House Press in 2014, as well as three chapbooks of poetry: How to Dream, The Spirit Can Crest, and most recently, Postcard from P-town, which was selected as runner-up for the inaugural Robin Becker Chapbook Prize and published in 2009 by Seven Kitchens Press. His poems have appeared in several anthologies and in numerous periodicals, including The Minnesota Review, International Poetry Review, and Evening Street Review. In 2005, Christopher Bursk named him the Robert Fraser Distinguished Visiting Poet at Bucks County (PA) Community College. Denise Levertov selected one of his poems as runner-up for the Grolier Poetry Peace Prize in 1987. He served as poetry editor of RFD between 1987 and 1995. He received an MFA in Poetry in 2008 from New England College, where he was awarded a Joel Oppenheimer Scholarship. He won a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council in 1992. He holds an MLS from Simmons College and works as Manager of Serials Cataloging at Harvard University Library.
Margaret Withers is a visual artist who lives and works in New York city. Her paintings are fragments of stories found in an imaginary landscape that capture in the abstract the conflicting ideas of joy and melancholy, as well as community and aloneness in regards to the concept of home and communication. Her web based transliteration project is based on cultural shifts in the 50 United States. Originally from Texas, Withers has exhibited her work throughout the country and internationally in Brussels, Australia, Berlin, China, Vienna and Russia. Her artwork is included in multiple private and corporate collections and has won numerous awards including a 2013/2015 resident fellowship to the Vermont Studio Center, a fellowship to the Millay Colony, and a 2013 USA Project Grant.