Lisa Lewis

Taxonomy of the Missing

You couldn’t help feeling sorry for them.
They swaggered when they walked
And wept when they sat down.
The bones shone through their skin
Like long fluorescent tubes
Buzzing faintly with overuse.
They couldn’t begin to live
Until the plane took off.
They couldn’t check their phones
Until they could ping a closer tower.
The squirrels approached in the park
And they shrank, was this rabies?
The sere leaves of winter twirled
Like the young girls of May,
Fingertips touching, the circle
Spinning, but they felt no joy,
No lust to join in.
The boards clutching their houses
Together drooped top down
Like stockings sans garters,
Bluer, bluest. I had thought myself
The saddest of average humans,
But they were sadder and superior
And insisted by winking
Or jutting their bruised jaws
On not speaking of it.
I longed to commiserate—what
About the flat tires? What about
The gutters choking in their sleep?–
But they flew on wings
Like owls’ wings, carrying less
Than they might’ve, and silent.
I told a story about deer
And they listened for the tock
Of cloven hooves on brick,
Refusing to believe them visible.
Do you know I’m here?
One of them asked and retreated
Before I could think of an answer.
I didn’t want to hurt anybody.
I outlined a shadow like a corpse.
I wished I’d changed the subject
To the price of my script signature.
I was opening a jar of mustard
For my supper. I moved
Across the earth searching.
Before long, I could tell
I was still alone,
At least insofar as my own kind,
My close kin, tolerated
Only a little light on their faces,
And I preferred to glance down.

Lisa Lewis’s books include The Unbeliever (Brittingham Prize), Silent Treatment (National Poetry Series), Vivisect (New Issues Press), and Burned House with Swimming Pool (American Poetry Journal Prize, Dream Horse Press). New work appears or is forthcoming in Tampa Review, Carolina Quarterly, Guernica, Sugar House Reader, and Knockout. She directs the creative writing program at Oklahoma State University and serves as poetry editor for the Cimarron Review.