Scott Beal


You know that scene at the end of Starshock IV

when rupture fire carves Gen's shoulder

to a charred trough—she's gasping with death

as the clamshells close in—and Zhe has turned

from the pod door to blaze back to her side dodging

lectros every step and you know what he needs

is the finity code—you flash to how they fought in the rathskeller,

Zhe lunging across the table to shake her collar

shrieking "The code! Give me the—" then crash and sizzle

when his elbow knocks her blue bottle to the floor

—they both goggle at the steaming puddle

as toxin eats the tile—then the joint erupts in broken stools

and plasma blasts as the Zenheads ambush—and now

Gen's quaking with shock under the emergency lights

and you've seen how Zhe will cut down a pilot

or sabotage his carrier's thrusters in pursuit

of the code—you see him stoop over Gen's quivering,

the crater in her shoulder smoking as the code's

last retrieval source expires before his eyes,

you see his mouth twitch, twice, as the camera pans in,

his muscles tensing as if to squeeze

the info straight from her fading hippocampus—

and your best friend hasn't moved to Nebraska—your parents

haven't split your effects fifty-fifty—then the blade

in his eyes sheathes—he doesn't rail in her face, but bends

and lays his cheek next to hers, as if revealing

a deep cover identity even he had never been briefed on,

and lingers ten seconds as she shudders to a stop—

Exhalers of earth, you don't have to be lonely to be lonely

for that life. You can surround yourself with friends and mugs

of porter on your birthday. You can ride the zenith

of your days, cloaked in warmth, piling paystubs,

the future widening like the delta of a rich river,

and be lonely for that moment when the secret of the universe

went dark in your brain, when the ones you knew

were built to betray you would hold themselves

near you through what slim forever you could have.

SCOTT BEAL is the author of the poetry collection Wait 'Til You Have Real Problems (Dzanc Books, 2014) and the chapbook The Octopus (Gertrude Press, 2016). His poems have appeared recently in Pleiades, Cincinnati Review, Linebreak, Forklift Ohio, and other journals.  He lives, teaches, and co-hosts a monthly reading series called Skazat! in Ann Arbor, MI.

Back to Issue 3 - Spring / Summer 2017