By Andrea Witzke Slot

All Rights Reserved.

Night and day it traipses across your lawn, a wind-up toy begging you to play—such charm! See the neighbors, in the middle of a sunny afternoon, put down their barbeque tongs to clap while it merrily spills its sea of tongues, its chorus of dissemblers, its tiny doll-sized voices into the streets, the playgrounds, the backyards, where it creeps onward through doors and windows, seeps deep into walls and floors. Hear the chirpy chatter! The fizzy laughter! Such witty views! A Fox News Live! Faces, shining—so pretty! Sleek-furred hides, shining—so soft! And just this morning, Saturday’s newspaper held the glossy mag called The Journal of Illusive Thought. You opened the polished spread and read. Dr. Barthes warns: The virus is tenacious! You use language? You are never free! You close The Journal of Illusive Thought because you are hungry and there’s a barbeque in the street today. But Dr. B’s words haunt you. You be careful now. Be careful whom you invite to play, whose hamburger you eat, whom you clink your drink to, where you lay your head at the end of a long day. It’s not hiding in the streets or in the shed or under your bed. It stands grim as an invisible giant in front of you—pet him!— and then snap back your hand—for the anthill’s been shaken, and out they spill, their tiny mouths binging as the virus spreads. And yet Dr. B had a promise in that article you read. There is a tonic, strange and transitory and hard to find. Go! Fall in love! Only then will your speech be released, your lives freed. But heed the warning on that bottle: Healthy hours are ephemeral. Take advantage if you find wide-awake solace. And please consume with greatest care.

Andrea Witzke Slot lives between London and Chicago. She writes poetry, fiction, essays, and academic work, and is particularly interested in the places in which cultures, ideas, and genres intersect. She is author of the poetry collection To find a new beauty (Gold Wake Press, 2012), and her work is forthcoming or has recently appeared in such places as Bellevue Literary Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Fiction Southeast, Mid-American Review, Southeast Review, Nimrod, SRPR, Litro, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, while her academic work on poetry and social change has been included in books published by SUNY Press (2013) and Palgrave Macmillan (2014). She’s been a finalist, runner-up, and honorable mention in several recent writing awards, including AROHO’s Clarissa Dalloway book prize for her first novel and the 2014 Calvino Prize for her short fiction.