There is an episode of Buffy where she is told
her slayer life in Sunnydale fighting
vampires and demons is a delusion,
that she has really been in a mental institution.
She is strong; chooses to not buy this story,
and goes back to save the world.
But wait-- in the final moment of the last scene,
We are back at the hospital where
a doctor laments, “We've lost her.”
Leaving fans wondering if this whole
series was just a fucking hallucination.
And I can't count the times
my students use this ending
or the one where it was all a bad dream
‘cause see watch me put the clock
going off in the last sentence.
Or this version of the alternate universe
where everyone is alive and together again
because the bad scene never takes place.
Or it's about to, and the hero stops it.
This shitty plot happens again and again and
did you know right now you are trapped in one?
Personally, I'd say, I think it is really happening.
It is not just in my head.
I am not catatonic in a hospital bed.
I am not languishing in Shadowfell.
I am not sedated somewhere in the Matrix.
Trust me, there are so many twists to this trope.
See, you are here with these words now
wondering where you are.
Maybe you will realize you were never happy,
or you never wanted to be happy,
or that this universe is not the one you wanted.
Maybe you are not the hero.
Maybe you can't stop anything,
because there isn't anything to stop.
Maybe you don't want to know.
Don't worry though, I took out the alarm.
I Had This Dream
A teacup-sized black poodle walks behind me
on my walk in the woods.
She is covered in snow. Icicles form under
her flanks. She is hungry. She does not bark.
She continues to follow me, wants me to rescue her.
I ignore her, afraid to acknowledge her,
but realize if I don't do
something she will probably die.
I look to see if she has a collar:
She does. I hold the tag in my hand
I don't want to know who owns her--
or maybe I already do.
I notice how thin she is,
how she is missing
patches of hair, pieces of flesh.
Used to be cared for by someone
at some point
I don't know how I know this
because she is covered
with snow and it hasn't snowed in a while--
it is June and I am not facing her.
She has survived so long
I say out loud and
Why am I walking at 3 AM
and why is there a sidewalk
in these woods and why is my
house here too and why am I covered
in snow and why am I not turning around
and if everyone in your dream is you
and if I am I this dog
and I know this now--
Why am I still here?
On My Block
People like us who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion -- Albert Einstein
I walk down my driveway.
I do this for twenty-four years.
There are so many cracks
that we don’t bother to pave.
I note the overgrown azaleas.
See a school bus drive past.
It is raining when I reach the mailbox.
We have tulips, somewhere.
I see Mr. Muller’s wife across the street
in her white and blue housecoat feeding the chickens
as their German shepherd eyes the sheep.
I catch the scent of wood burning.
I hear their rooster crowing.
A blonde jogger runs down the yellow center line.
She pretends to not see me for six years.
Mr. Muller runs shirtless down the street
even after the heart attack.
I can't remember when he stops.
He still has his blue pickup and a few goats left.
His daughter lives with him.
She is fifty.
I also can't remember when he gets the new dog.
I see it over there by Maria and Doug’s pond.
They lose three parents, four dogs and a cat.
We all swim in their heated pool.
We watch Dick Clark on New Year’s together
until they buy their second home in Vermont.
Their children, Alan and Janice ride red dirt bikes
with my kids around and around our yard.
They help Nick and Kyra bury
a time capsule out back by our stream
while Alex plays with his Hot Wheels in the treehouse.
Alex gets his driving permit.
Janice is in Boston studying to be a nurse.
Alan works for a tree removal company.
My Dad goes by in his silver Outback.
He is smiling and wearing a hat.
I catch a glimpse of Tom by his Lexus.
Mine is a 2011.
I get it right before Bob goes to rehab—
right before these azalea bushes bloom.
My Dad stops driving in 2013.
Tex the Golden plays near the road.
But the golden is named Bo.
And Tom is Missy's new boyfriend John,
or Tom's son Jake.
My dog is eleven.
We still have a rabbit hutch--
Even though they all die in 2005.
Bob takes the treehouse down and
Nick and Kyra go back to college.
Tom just can't stop drinking
and burns a hole through his throat.
And Steve rides his bike fifty miles a day
after his DUI.
I don't recall what year Tex gets hit by that car.
So it goes.
The mailman hasn't come yet.
I wish I could hold my letters and catalogues.
See my name fixed in print, check the date
and reassure myself that there actually is a present.
I don’t know whether now is now.
And whether Steve is removing twigs
or leaves or weeds from his deep-green lawn today.
Or if his wife, Joanne is reading a paperback on the back deck.
His four daughters are not in the house anymore.
The oldest is thirty-one and married.
The youngest plays with our bunny, Jeff.
She feeds him carrots on a dark-blue blanket.
Kyra doesn’t listen to her when she says
azaleas are poisonous.
Victoria Nordlund received her MALS from Wesleyan University.Her chapbook, Binge Watching Winter on Mute, will be published by Main Street Rag in 2019. She is a 2018 Best of the Net Nominee whose work has appeared in PANK Magazine, Coffin Bell, Gone Lawn, Ghost Proposal, Philosophical Idiot, and other journals. She lives in Glastonbury, Connecticut.