Lucky Number 13
One in ten Americans will not read this poem.
Since you’re here, nine others will skip over it, maybe
the next one too, to be safe. Eighty percent of high-
rises contain no 13th floor—a rectangle of
air pressurizes 12th and 14th’s adjacent sides,
filled with saltpeter
and cherry trees twisting in the
ceilinged dark. These are numbers I invented, that I
flaunt ecstatically in this poem’s unseen space thanks
to a coterie of superstitious non-readers.
Statisticians have terrible poker faces; each
economic lever pulled to swing a graph creates
more something—the action incurs about three seconds
of thought before everyone else wakes to find their life
lesser as a result. Preparation
plus opportunity is called luck (preparation:
that which is left anonymously on white doorsteps
under the cover of night) but luck is also the
illusion of momentum, the self-yoking every
lottery winner inflicts upon themselves.
but cannot keep up with the selves we see shining in
our future, we are temporarily embarrassed
millionaires1 on a hill that surely eases soon,
four years, two years, not far away now—look, look, look how
the horizon’s ledger’s dipped in gold. The day transacts.
blooms at its influence. The most powerful
group in our elections: non-voters. Power transfers
like gravity, we say, we say it will flow—downhill,
ostensibly to us, but look, if you will look, it
seeps into the carpet, it drains, gerrymanders the
fibers of the ceiling tiles and flickers the lights on
12, whose occupants are assured this inconvenience
will be fixed soon. Kink in the system, temporary.
1. language borrowed from John Steinbeck↩
“If You See Something, Say Something”
Ec·o·nom·ics (n): The branch of study concerned
with the allocation of scarce resources.
The quality of our thoughts is only as good
as the quality of our language. – Carlin
The housewarming plant snakes
around the stacks of legalese / searching
for the feeding sun, sees / the paperwork
an obstacle / toward its blossom /
harvest / and legacy.
Make a fist around the seed / around
the dirt around the seed it /
feels like someone’s home / humid and earthy
the sweat of your hand / an excuse
In a world of scarce resources
noise exists as filler, whether air in a tire
or balloons announcing
the arrival of a tiny new gravity
The myth of fullness must be propagated
or else: deflation, supply demands
you buy the instruments that will undo you
and if you can’t afford them
take them, rightfully
yours, possession is
Be fiscally responsible, but keep
the economy moving, funding
the next great Shark Tank idea
if you stop moving you die,
don’t stop to remark on the stopped
body, the flower springing
from the sidewalk / where he took
his last breaths.
Collectives spurn nuance, jagged
edges. If someone else has something,
they shouldn’t. Scarcity
spurns communal, strain
is felt as a pressure lashing up
from the wrist, the seed falling /
ungripped / to wrap a tighter fist.
Anger, pulleys snapped and flailing
around the cathedral of the skull,
an ouroboros engine exhausting
the words entitlements, Obama
phone, handouts, lazy. Any strain
on the system requires the identification
of a force, one that can be seen,
pointed to, collected.
If it can’t be solved it’ll be intimidated.
If it can’t be intimidated it’ll be walled off
or torn down or regulated, quantified,
weighed, measured, valued.
When our aunts and uncles proclaim
the town has “gone downhill” they mean full-
stop there are more minorities. This is known
and yet saying it creates movement. Upon
finally striking out on my own (the term
itself enacting violence on the land, that I may
pierce it, claim it as my own) I was gifted the plant
to liven up the new place / commemorate
my entry / into a world
I’m expected to tend / fertilize / uphold.
There is only so much sunlight, we are told
our solar system’s core is finite, I am told
my boy, take it.
Water and light / the stuff of life
Need and noise, propagating
Self-driving shoes walk me to the department store,
lighting, chiming their heels. I don’t need anything but like to look.
The seed in the wet dirt / in my hand
trembles / I’m tempted to open / to reach
/ to grasp to / make something
/ to have something
“When we were your age, we walked uphill
both ways in the snow to school
“We paid for college and a mortgage deposit
with a part-time summer job
“In our day we grew whole forests
on our backs”
“This holiday season, shop like our jobs
depend on it!” (They do.)
The American Dream: rain
dissolving rain, the mailman past due.
Neither snow nor acid rain nor
mushroom cloud shall keep the corn
from growing. Production
the culture’s foremost byproduct.
By means of production, we mean reproduce.
Children’s toys made to inure them to labor,
plastic saws, vacuums, dump trucks, cash
registers the feel of a paper currency like heat in the hand,
potential coiled waiting for a rainy day.
Go for a drive, test drive something
to control today. Feel the obedience
at 0% APR for 18 months. Tune
your shower to static, hear better
shook from the rhythms
carrying you from screen to screen, bedroom
to living, virtual to actual and the convincing
that happens between the two, that we
enact with every humid breath.
Autocorrect assumed “but” to be a misspelling of “buy.”
The millennial toolset is what washes downstream, what we can use to take apart things that growing up were just the way things were done, “tradition,” but what is tradition anyway, what does it uphold, does it come with qualifiers, why, why sounds like “whine whine” to some, the air being released from a tire, the Dow needing more bodies to push it up the hill
does it not bud or grow us in the shade, does it
look like the same sharp limbs,
splinters being deposited into Facebook comments
does it look like us
writing poems on being upset learning
of our grandparents’ racism
does it counter the culture
and what does that relationship entail, validation
a two-factor authentication method
for mutually assured fist-shaking
I thought / I could afford
an / additional ticket
for the plant but / they made me check it
/ I even promised / I’d secure it / use the buckle
see / the buckle how could that possibly be dangerous
What arrives at the baggage claim—
that which feeds on itself—we finally see
upon arrival—when it’s recalled from the plane’s
what others planted in our belongings
when they were out of sight—how they
might bloom into the lives of others
“if you see something, say
being noticeable / discrete / definable
tangible / culpable / plausible
distinguishable / specific / disparate
identifiable / probable / knowable
distinct / explicit / definitive
perceptible / extant / breathing
finite / possible / quantifiable
perceivable / conspicuous / palpable
reproducible / recognizable / definite
manifest / particular / visible
apparent / comprehensible / evident
Photograph of Brandon Amico by Nicole McConville.