How many of us in this bed? You, index finger crooked
in the corner of my mouth like a whalehook. Me, foot
cramping against the cool aluminum of your laptop,
video—keyword search: monster, schoolgirl—on mute.
Next to us, Morphling96, a weak-jawed boy who looks
vaguely Swedish and speaks in furious clicks and clacks
reminiscent of the sounds of a keyboard. Just northeast,
a clan of trolls nervously eyes the space over your head,
where a life bar flickers the color of a pollen dust storm.
Southwest, an ex-lover from last winter sticks wads of
tissue between the toes of a wyvern, says: Do Not Move
Or You’ll Smudge The Polish. Nearby, a thing with horns
and a thing with tusks debate the merits of strength and
agility, look at us with disgust. How few protrusions stick
out of us! And with them how stupid, tender we thrust.
Where are you now? Your lips are being stung by bees.
Your lips are being stung by hornets and yellow jackets
and wasps and bees. Your lips are being kissed by wisps
and shadows, lancers and beasts and all-stars and bees.
A priestess does whippets perched on the windowsill,
losing skin each time her thumb freezes to the cracker.
She leans back against the glass, says: I Haven’t Felt
This Okay Since Fifteen. Marrow of sapphires. Keeper
of the light. She hands a maiden the charger, whispers:
Exclusive Offer, One Night Only, Premium Piece Of Air.
You have always disappeared so easily into other worlds.
This one is too three-dimensional, with its cold southern
comforts, feather down bedding. Want to level up, soothing.
Feeling blue raspberry popsicles dripping onto everything
sticky. Analysis paralysis, anaphylactic reaction. Gun down
a grizzly and build me an insulated yurt with its bear hands.
This is adding insult to injection. Two people on the bus
sharing earbuds. Two people on the bus with a backpack
between them, each holding a strap. Can’t help but half
smile at the baby with hair jet-plane black, like iron filings
sprinkled over a bar magnet. Say you don’t mind about the
hostile environment, glad for the double protection so we
can fill the whole room with ultra-ribbed beige balloons.
What’s the difference? We’re all made of clay and our only
defense against cracking is to slick one another wet. I ask:
Would You Like To Feel Alive? You say: No, Not Yet, Maybe
Just More Animated. Your thousand-yard stare is your tell
you’ve gone elsewhere, where your battle looks like mine
but with more heroes to choose from. Rhinestone tramp
the creep camp and how many hearts have you collected?
I am somewhere else too, inside the ancient tower of you,
both parties crumbling. I am candying the bacon. Mind
the timer, bourbon, weapon. I am every way to flip a coin,
scribbling Radical Participation But Not To The Point
Of Consumption onto board game currency in red pen.
Kristina Ten is a dog person and a people person, in that order. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Word Riot, Pantheon Magazine, Quiet Lightning’s sparkle + blink, and SP CE’s LOVEbook. She lives in San Francisco.