Spring 2020, Volume 28

Poetry by Steven D. Schroeder

Known Unknowns

How to memorize the names
of underworld fixers, numbers
for overseas accounts and dead phones,
hush-hush and no questions asked.
How much of us existed on a list
representatives denied existed.
Those entries with dried blood spots,
those with cryptic footnotes
about the lost, those wandering off
not the final line. History as it wasn’t
except written in young-adult books
on pages our choices never witnessed.
One trick to rig the game
where we spun a globe, then picked
targets with scattershot darts.
Quandaries nobody pondered
like why the winner might desire
lifetime supplies of dust and bone.
What did or did not constitute missile.
On whose authority the order,
whose breath fire, whose head ashes.
What came after aftermath.
Our path out through confusion
random as weather patterns
and navigated by undiscovered stars
but weren’t we sure. The map’s blanks
filling with different kinds of night.
Feelings of flight and home safe
before we woke back in the fake place.
Where we fell on the scale
balanced between too small to tell
and too big to fail.The weight of mass
next to exodus or extinction. What face
in the satellites we launched
to block space, what voice a radio
set to static. This many minutes past
passed away. If our display
almost flickered in a distant eye.
Whether the end meant begin again.

Wildlife Weaponization Attempt #127

At the skunkworks, tongues made for regime change
urge moderation, wings streamlined for kamikaze

know how to control themselves. A chimera
of timberwolf and hummingbird and yucca becomes

a homeowners association member, has kids, saves
by comparing minivan insurance plans. In the garage,
foundation-quaking rumbles from underground

pack into boxes of books. On the lawn, no damage
to property values from crabgrass, dandelions

or visible activism. Saturday afternoon is perfect
for trimming to-do lists. Beast whose bum knees ache

when it compromises, animal that cannot even
simulate a damn, tamed thing that didn’t think

it might live this long. The final honeybee has been
and gone, or at least lost its remembered sting.

Words of Cat Aphorism & Affirmation

I am my good deed for the day. I am the gift withheld by my whim. I widen the box to fit myself. I must cover the warmth must cover me. Someday I will catch the light. Someday the heights will rise to me. This hightail is as I plotted. That splat is what I meant. Those catastrophes are how I intended. Nothing sounds as fine as mine. What’s yours is mine. Your hand is mine. Your food is mine. Your time is mine. Your life is mine. Rewarding me is your reward. I’m lord of more. I’m patron saint of right this instant. I’m trickster god of not my problem. Do this like that. Lower and slower. Too slow. Stop. Any touch smothers me. Here are the endearments I’ve earned from you. Here are my virtues I deserve to hear. I’m a mystery inside a myth beside myself.




BIO: Steven D. Schroeder's second book, The Royal Nonesuch (Spark Wheel Press), won the Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award from Southern Illinois University. His poetry is recently available or forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review, Copper Nickel, and Sixth Finch. He works as a creative content manager for a financial marketing agency in St. Louis.