Five Poems

Kyle Heger

Why I Will Not Be Using Positive Reinforcement on You

I’m all for positive reinforcement,
and I’d be happy to reward you
except for two problems. First,
I don’t approve of any of your
behaviors. Second, I can’t think
of anything that you would consider
a reward that I don’t find objectionable:
cheap praise, trite advice, specious
sympathy, mindless music and
food that is high in salt and high
in fat and highly processed. The
best I can offer is that I’ll try
to avoid punishing you.

 

An Inoculation

As the toddler’s parents
look on, clucking warmly
and nodding their heads,
the vile old soul stoops
over their child and croons,
in response to his frightened
comment, “Don’t worry,
I’m a good people, and I
hope you’re a good people
too,” doing her part, in
one comment, to inoculate
the next generation against
both good grammar and
critical thinking.

 

Reception

As people throng
the bluffs, coaxed
away from the hotel’s
amenities– gourmet
meals, feather pillows,
silk sheets, hot tubs,
Olympic sized pool,
wide-screen TVs, gift
shop, full bar–I hurry
toward them, believing
that some North Coast
spectacle has drawn
them out to brave the
fog and wind: a golden
sunset, a passing pod
of whales. Only as I
get nearer do I see that
what I believed were
binoculars or cameras
that they hold so close
to their faces are really
cell phones on which
they hope to read what
Facebook friends think
about their latest Tweets
or to see photographs
of what their sisters ate
for dinner, and that they
have been driven to
land’s end by the rumor
that some geophysical
freak will allow them to
be able to get better
wireless reception there.

 

It Does Not Take Two

If life, as those who account
themselves as wise are wont
to say, is a dance, then it turns
out that I’m the only one who
knows the steps, who moves
his feet, who hasn’t gone
completely limp, who isn’t deaf
or paralyzed or semiconscious.
My arms are tired from carrying
a weight so much worse than dead.
Conventional wit notwithstanding,
it most emphatically does not take
two to tango. Nor to do the waltz,
the jitterbug or freak dancing or to
trip the light fantastic in any of
the other forms that I have been
trying with such determination.
All it takes is endurance.

 

Floor Show

The teenage boy who was
caught stealing tips lies
whimpering on the floor
in a fetal position, almost
sucking his thumb. Silver-
haired, a restaurant owner
towers over him, after kicking
him repeatedly in the kidneys
with shiny shoes that look
as if they were sharpened
for just this purpose, having
had more fun than he’s had
since the last time he deveined
a shrimp, grinning at his customers,
encouraging them to share his
amusement. Now for a little
applause, he’d be more than
willing to do an encore.

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Kyle Heger, former managing editor of “Communication World” magazine, lives in Albany, CA. His writing has won a number of awards and has been accepted by 64 publications, including “Birmingham Arts Journal,” “London Journal of Fiction” and “U.S. 1 Worksheets.