It’s cloudy, UV index low,
wind chill makes it feel like 53.
Shades of green creep across the eastern panhandle of West Virginia.
The poet laureate packs her bags to leave.
She’s got cancer and medical bills.
Maybe she’s headed to Vegas to play craps and draw jacks
from blue stacks held by card sharks in green hats,
where it’s sunny, 66, winds calm, and Richard Wiley
drinks in dive bars with E.L. Doctorow from dusk till dawn.
Maybe she’s headed to Long Beach, sand collecting in her purse,
to watch muscle men on the boardwalk, oiled and flexing,
where it’s mostly cloudy,72,
and pelicans dive bomb blue bicycles as they pass.
Sunshine in the south.
Jean Lafitte staff in their white t-shirts and black slacks
stack loose furniture in the back on Bourbon Street.
Winds come in gusts of 10 to 20 mph.
Hurricane Ida won’t wait much longer to dump the ocean and break the levy.
The poet pulls on brittle shoelaces
hoping they won’t snap.
A lady behind a too-tall half-circle desk
hands me a blue pencil with the university logo
painted across two sides
and a clip board—questionnaire attached.
“Fill this out. Someone will be right with you”
but doesn’t stand up.
What is your stress level at this moment? Please,
indicate on the numbered list below.
1 2 3 4 5
The elevator dings over water cooler gurgles.
An intern sips, then squishes the Dixie cup
between his fingers.
Yolks glossing the pavement yellow
lay at my feet.
The supermarket sign flickers red,
all the vowels burned out.
In the parking lot, we fight about nothing that matters:
how 2% milk thickens mac & cheese,
the difference between spinach and kale,
quilted toilet paper.
I remember ninth grade Science,
the class standing at the second story window,
watching Mr. McDaniel—a weeble-wobble of a man—
ready to drop my project, asking me if I’m ready.
Again, I wonder about the protective properties
of peanut butter.
Andi Stout lives and writes in West Virginia. She teaches at her alma mater, West Virginia University. Her work has appeared in Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, Scissors & Spackle, The Long Leaf Pine, and Junoesq.