Arvilla Fee

State of the Human Address

We pop our pills and guzzle them down
with fruit infused water from plastic bottles,
which we promptly recycle, but they still
end up surprising sea turtles beyond the bay.
We excuse our behaviors with a myriad
of labels we have so cleverly carved
from the recesses of our minds—it’s fine,
we say to the bipolar, narcissistic, manic
depressive—here, have some more pills.
Then go to work in your 9 x 9 cubicle,
stare at a screen, have as little interaction
as possible. But make sure you visit the gym
on your day off. Hamburgers are unhealthy,
but the FDA approved Red Dye 40, in small
amounts, naturally. Drive around pot holes;
the bridges are perfectly safe, as are the trains,
(except in cases of collapse or derailments).
The more you go to concerts, movie theaters
and shopping malls, the better you’ll feel—
unless, of course, there’s an active shooter. 
In that case, run for your lives; it’s all random.
You at least have some semblance of control
when you order your tall Frappuccino, extra shot
of espresso, soy milk, no whip cream, light ice,
and sip it through a biodegradable paper straw.
Never settle for silence, not even while pumping
gas; entertainment can maintain equilibrium, but
thinking is unhealthy and may result in unwanted
education, a frightful peek under the bloated belly
of government bureaucracies and overspending.
At some point, you can retire, but not until 
your joints have reached optimal arthritis;
that’s really the best time to buy a red sports car
and wear those pricey sunglasses you craved
in your twenties. Still unfulfilled? Visit a beach,
say hello to the turtles, pick up rogue plastic,
increase your medication. 


What shall come tumbling out
of this baby lying still in my lap
sucking his thumb? What inner
workings lie within his mind,
dormant, yet maybe just so,
until a crest of late blooming 
as he sprouts into toddler, child
and teen. Raking through leaves
of his past, (heritage, the agency
calls it) will those discoveries
come trumpeting into his life
like a herd of pissed elephants?
Will they scream and throw things;
will they require the steady hands
of professionals and saints?
Will the trail of cocaine use,
malfunctions, disorders…
you know,
that one maternal grandmother,
that crazy uncle—somehow mar
this still-cradled soul,
or can nurture overcome
those ancient natured beasts?


(dedicated to Ukrainian survivors)

There’s a choking thickness 
in the air—gray ash that coats 
    throats and memories.
People stoop, even the youngest
appearing ancient—faces gaunt,
hands clutching carrots scattered
     among the cadavers.
Bellies hollow, filled with nothing
but bile for days—eyes transfixed
as they watch dogs gnaw on the 
     dead, the half-dead feed on dogs.
There lies the back of a chair, books
with splayed spines, their pages swept
away by the wind, cutlery, teacups,
     a cellphone—all signs of civilization
and yet people are digging through 
dirt, scraping survival from beneath
cinder blocks with broken fingernails,
     unable to process the marquee to 
the movie theatre that now sits askew
or the fragmented walls where artwork
once graced a gallery;
      for not a single soul can bake Atlantis or 
boil a Vasyl Krychevsky in the aftermath of
an aggressor who slashes sovereignty as though
he is some primeval predator who has never held
       a wine glass in his claws.
We’ve come so far, people say—and yet
it is achingly obvious we have not come
      far enough.

Arvilla Fee teaches English Composition at Clark State College in Springfield, Ohio, and is the poetry editor of the San Antonio Review. Her book of poems, The Human Side, is available on Amazon. Writing, for Arvilla, “produces the greatest joy when it connects us to each other.” 

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