State Change (Two Poems)

in Politics by


Cass’s House, Oakland, January 2017

She ladled turkey neck soup with corncobs,
cut me a hunk of cornbread from the cast-iron pan.
The ceiling was high, pipes twined with ivy.
Pit bulls and young men lolled around.
David Bowie danced on a flat-screen
bigger than my bay window.
Candles of all shapes lit the long kitchen table
and the eyes of hopeful poets.
Old vine zinfandel slid down my throat.
My youngest cousin quoted Jose Martí.
Two weeks before the Inauguration.
Everything was about to change.



Beetles swarm out of the sarcophagus,
scuttle up the walls, their carapaces scraping
against each other, susurration and clatter,
sound of overwhelm, drown of black.

Anubis sits on an abandoned car
in the neighbor’s yard, howls
at the super moon, yowls insatiable
for the planets that used to be.

The moon breaks up, crumbles
like a stale cookie. The tide recedes so far,
barnacle-encrusted destroyers drip,
glisten in the light only of stars.

Compass needles spin. Chronometers
run backwards. Sinkholes open up,
swallow Seven-Elevens, vomit up
seventh-circle demons and Latin poets.

The sky is full of portents. Two-headed sharks
swim up the estuary. Albino crocodiles
roam the marketplace. I don’t know how
we’re going to make it to Inauguration Day.


Jan Steckel is a poet and former pediatrician. Her book The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011) won a 2012 Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Nonfiction. She has published two award-winning chapbooks: Mixing Tracks (Gertrude Press, 2009) and The Underwater Hospital (Zeitgeist Press, 2006). Her writing has appeared in Scholastic Magazine, Yale Medicine, Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Oakland, California, “where we keep our fist in the air.”

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