Now That's What I Call Alternative Literature


volume 1
volume 2


'WHAT ARE WE DOING' A POETRY COLLECTION BY STEPHEN MICHAEL MCDOWELL

oh dear god no

i called my ex girlfriend
i emailed my old boss
i text messaged my estranged brother
i picked up the phone on a blocked number
i am the shower head of society
and i only emit diarrhea
i am wrecking my entire life for you
why not accept this petition:
block me from all social media
pretend i don’t exist
when people ask you about ‘us’
about ‘me’
about the past three years
just ignore that part of the conversation
relegate every moment i’ve known you
to a nuclear storage facility in your heart
and pretend like it won’t
reach your bloodstream not now not ever
the emotional water supply will be safe
—from me at least
for now for ever




i think i am allergic to what we could have been so it’s okay

if i was stupid
and you were true
then what standard was there for anything really
i was a relative earthquake
an insignificant jolt of earth-stuff
that changed all matter
affected weak forces—one bee in a swarm of all bees ever
—but you, to me
you were all galaxies ever
careening toward me
so substantial that i could not have seen you in time
or done a thing if i wanted to have done a thing
if having done a thing might have allowed me to avoid you
it’s all just there and then and too late now
and you were like a antigen as well, i am sure
how? i am unsure
but it’s better this way my head is less stuffy




you’re an insensitive well of finite perfection and superhuman levels of narcissist whim and i still love you a bunch okay so please what now what next?

i sat next to you in your car
and realized i still loved you
up the interstate and all through the downtown corridor
i kept thinking to look at you
then not looking at you
i wondered ‘where do we go after it all gives up’
and by ‘it all’ i meant the universe
and the resulting sarcasm was something i felt i couldn’t handle
so then i felt that i wanted to kiss you
and look you over how a person who loves you might
knowing that i am that person
and maybe not wanting to be that person
you looked at me
and said you believed in a thing
and that meant you conversely believed in that other thing
and that other thing—not love—is what you felt for me then
you stopped and unlocked the car doors
and left me there
at an intersection
and drove back to your parents’ house alone
and i thought about your life without me
and felt encouraged for you, a little
and then sad for me, a little
because i thought i saw you look at me
the way that i wanted to look at you
but faces seem to signify
only what thoughts are unsure of
i guess, anyway




i think that actual reality is too complex for me to say that i will ever know what you are

you are like a tree
in that i am afraid of you
your life is an enormous thing i cannot understand
that, statistically, will outlast my thing
and that will happen elsewhere even without me
and i will live until whenever, not knowing
if you are alive or not
but i will care
i will obsess
‘are you living or nonliving’
i will have small thoughts about this frequently
i will panic and my breathing will seize
and i will feel infinite and out of control with the urge to want to talk to you
to know that you’re okay
i know you will not answer
and i will still feel afraid
that you will outlive me
and are resilient, a survivalist
and i know you think that happiness can be permanent
and a tree in the forest depends on sun beams through the canopy
but i will be miserable
and will forget who i am
and feel afraid of the world
and afraid of myself
and then will be just afraid
i will embody all fear
so please please don’t do this to me
baby let’s buy a plant together please please don’t do this to me




youth

we walk
it’s dark
‘are you drunk,’ i ask
‘mhmm,’ you hum
your mouth is full
nacho drips down your lip
you catch it with the back of your free hand
and almost drop the bag
(the bag is enormous and almost empty)
there is cheese on your hand and your face
you look at me
your eyes say ‘i’m ashamed of myself’
and ‘oh, dear god, no’
and ‘what will he respond to this’
you have shattered something, it seems
this is a test you are proctoring and have no control over
i am the involuntary pupil
there is a moment in your eyes
that could shift to tears or laughs
and in that moment
my face jutts fast at your face
i kiss your cheek
a pillow filled with corn chips
i rustle my hair in the nacho on your face
and nuzzle my nose in the cusp of your neck
you squirm in ecstatic defense
a reflex
i remove my head gently
your shoulder bumps your now clean cheek
your mouth is still full
your eyes smile
you are the most beautiful thing
this may be the one moment
i remember for forever
but really
just until it’s time to forget

_________________________
stephen michael mcdowell curates habitat