We have lived half a century
 

Generation X is dead.
—William Gibson

What will we be like when we are old?
Will our hair resemble the wild geriatric wigs
of dandelions gone to seed?
Will crushed tissues peek from our sleeves
like desiccated prom corsages?
Will our days be compartmented
as pills we fish from plastic organizers?
Perhaps we’ll startle at the tiny craters
of our bewildered eyes in mirrors.


We don’t know what will surprise us
most. Even as old newspaper stacks
grow more Smithsonian daily
in our attics—a dead bee atop one pile
like a dispossessed apostrophe.
Even as winter dusk
presses tusks of dull blue
against the west-facing windows.
In the television light,
we are ghosts on the sofa,
turning the voices up to shouting
to catch the scripted words of lovers,
killers, all our new friends.
We hunker under afghans
while arthritis hauls an arctic wind
through our wrists. In these days
of no station signoff, we dwell
in electronic light everlasting.

Herb.jpg

Minneapolis, after George Floyd


 

Those pried-open peonies weeping 

glistering tears of ants.

That all-night gas station off the highway, 

icy and fever lit.

That blue-red whip of siren light, that 

hollow vowel of siren sound.

The house siding dripping for hours

after arson-proofing by garden hose. 

That graying bathwater, undrained

for emergency cistern.

That neighborhood 4:00 a.m. porch vigil,

baseball bat and bullhorn at the ready.

That blown transformer, a miniature tinman 

strapped to a pole, head frothing fire.

That abandoned construction site like a 

broken-down roller coaster 

dangling the loose teeth of its seats.

Those busted storefront windows,

plywood eyes nailed shut.

Those sick flowers of smoke 

unfurling from the burning precinct station.

That moonlight scaffolding the roofless 

brick of charred post office.

That dizzying lasso of copter blades—

that wrenching from dream 

to waking, hair spilled across the pillow 

and caught in the teeth of morning sun.

Laughing Sickness

Experts say laughter is a series of deep sighs.

The lungs jump like squirrels. Once,

 

a girls’ school in rural Tanzania 

broke out in a contagion of laughter. 

In the midst of a division 

lesson, one girl laughed as if 

 

she suddenly could no longer believe 

what was happening. The laughter 

enflamed the school, then the town, 

an epidemic that lasted nearly two years. 

 

Once, a woman in AA, 

standing in midlife recovery,

said she no longer told jokes

because humor was based in cruelty.

 

It’s true, always a man will walk into a bar

and unload a punch line 

like well-packed gunpowder. 

 

Every comedian is a bulldozer operator

shoving the rubble of an explosion

into a more manageable emotional landfill.

 

Laughter, the arrival of a breaking point. 

A crosscurrent crawls your limbs

as you lose your footing in the undertow.

Julie A. Cox received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Minnesota, where she was awarded the Edelstein-Keller Fellowship in poetry. A finalist for the Loft Mentorship series and the Writers at Work Competition, she has poems published or forthcoming in American Literary Review, Cream City Review, Hanging Loose, Salamander, Water~Stone, and elsewhere. Julie lives with her husband in Minneapolis with a family of four gray cats they were cajoled into adopting (despite her allergies and all common sense) from a local rescue.