After All These Months My Hair Is Still in Your Drain

"Slough" and "Spooky Action at a Distance," two poems by Kristen Steenbeeke

hands clapping off dust

After All These Months My Hair Is Still in Your Drain

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Slough

White detritus flakes from me to live its other lives. I scrape it with my strong nails then methodically push it out from underneath all ten. At the blue eighties-era pool surrounded by cedars I leave little bits of myself, which dissolve in chlorinated puddles or get picked up by a sliver of breeze. By the pool’s ladder a girl’s mother fits her with a purple-scaled mermaid tail. She silently drops backwards and glides away, then flaps the tail. A megaphone request is put forth to cease the slapping of noodles. The noodles cease their slapping for two minutes at most.

This weekend, before you nearly left me, I attended a baby shower. The couple sat on makeshift thrones beneath a plastic-vine-draped arch. They received nursing scarves and pacifiers. My old friend glowed with the knowledge of her doubling. I guessed the number of baby toys in the jar but left before they announced the answer.

Right now I’m guessing how many parts of me are floating through the world, caught up in a bit of pine needles or a modicum of dust. Hangnails, dry forehead skin, whatever I’ve scraped from my scalp. Strands of hair beneath couches and hung from branches. I’m honored to leave myself in the Uffizi Gallery, the state capitol, beneath a popular statue. I visit my ex-boyfriend and find he hasn’t washed his bathroom in months, my wavy hair strands still between the toilet seat and the tank amongst the flotsam. I shake someone’s hand and lose a couple tiny particles. In exchange I get a few of theirs.

Spooky Action at a Distance

Our bodies take measured breaths and move our legs and fingers and blink our eyes and we don’t even notice. A whole factory running smoothly until the manager remembers it’s there. Soon the workers are so nervous being watched they make odd ratios of two small breaths to one big breath, and the breaths get run through the grinder and come out all ragged and ruined.

Try watching that video of the x-ray tongue moving in the act of speech — rapid slug thing leaping out and in as if for more and more food.

And for example a man in Andalusia, Alabama, makes small talk with his grocery-store cashier and you are not there. A woman feeds a bird in Juneau, Alaska, and you are not there. A man has a heart attack in a bedroom where you once lived, and you take a weird breath and look behind you to see who, at this hour, could be there.

“Well, in speaking the word sigh,” you told me, trying to comfort, “in speaking the word sigh, there is a deep hollow at the center of the tongue.”

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