Wednesday, August 30, 2017

"How to Steal the Laptop of Your Childhood Nemesis" by Eric McHenry, Guest Contest Judge

How to Steal the Laptop of Your Childhood Nemesis
"Sneak" Watercolor on Paper, by J. Artemus Gordon
Eric McHenry

She keeps a spare key in a hollow rock
outside the kitchen door she doesn’t lock.
Her lights are on. Her sheltie is all talk.
You shouldn’t need the code for the alarm
(1234) because she tried to arm
the thermostat again. You’re getting warm.
Her master suite smells like a Hallmark store.
Her vanity is huge. Try to ignore
the fact that everything’s a metaphor
and that I’ve let you walk right into it.
Blow out the Yankee Candles she left lit.
Take in the master bathroom. Take a shit.
Flush resolutely. Agitate the handle.
Refill the Softsoap. Light a Yankee Candle.
Her MacBook Pro is hiding, like the Grail,
in plain sight; anyone but you will fail
to realize it’s not a bathroom scale.
Open her desktop. Close her Yahoo! Mail.
She keeps her recent photos in a folder
called “Photos.” Click a thumbnail and behold her
in sunlight, in a champagne off-the-shoulder
sheath wedding dress, fussed over by attendants.
She’s forty and has come into resplendence
like an inheritance, like heirloom pendants
flattering ear and flawless collarbone.
I should have told you, or you should have known,
that she has changed the most and aged the least
of all your enemies, her face uncreased
by laughter, worry, shame, or self-denial.
Those are her cheekbones. That’s her cryptic smile.
Those are her footsteps on the kitchen tile.

Poet’s Notes: One day I asked my students to pretend to know how to do something (land a helicopter, restore a painting, fillet a stingray) and then write a poem that gives the reader instructions. As it was an in-class assignment, I started writing one of my own. This was the eventual result.  “How to Steal the Laptop of Your Childhood Nemesis” was first published in Slate.

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