How to be Raw: a Poem

There are Raw Poetry Contests afoot, so I aims to enter them!

 

How to be Raw: a Poem

 

Decipher the code, she said to me.

And I found it came in a set of three.

A man in a glass box, an empty picture show, a lens.

I found it tricky because we think with thoughts but write with pens.

The glass box was perfectly clear. No reflections or marks. An Anti-mirror.

I saw the man shed two of his skins. But you don’t understand, it still wasn’t him.

I asked him why he’d killed the boy. He turned and spoke, empty words bereft of joy.

It’s okay, he said. That wasn’t the real me. This is the real me. I’m sincere and gay.

But it’s the same you. You haven’t changed at all, I say.

He sheds again. I’m sad and lonely, not deranged, he said.

But I can’t hear you, I reply. Defense against Change, the glass box read.

 

Unpuzzle the puzzle, she suggested next.

And determined, I dove twice as deep into the text.

The picture show was empty except it wasn’t, because I was there.

She sat alone, but apparently she didn’t care.

There was a gap in her smile, almost as big as the one in her soul.

She said it’s not that I can’t be filled, nothing fits my want to be whole.

I tried food and sex and drugs.

I tried movies and Netflix and hugs.

I know I’m not the smartest or the prettiest.

I’m definitely not the most patient or the luckiest.

But I got it where it counts. At least I’m not a child murderer.

I ask her why she’s alone. She says, the same reason you are.

I’m not alone. I have friends.

Are they real, or just means to ends?

I didn’t like that, but she didn’t see.

She pulled out a pipe that smelled vaguely of tea.

Will this get me high, I asked.

No, it’ll get you fucking high, she rasped.

 

Know thyself, her final command.

And then, only then, did I understand.

The lens is the way that I see the world.

I hungered for knowledge, for secrets unfurled.

I looked through the glass, hoping to see the universe.

Instead I found the inner stitching of my mini purse.

That’s it? This is all I can witness?

What does this say about my mental fitness?

So small, I bellowed. Why is the world so small?

Oh my dear student, you’ve learned nothing at all.

She took the lens from my hand and tsked tsked my conclusions.

She asked how exactly I’d earned these confusions.

I told her the answers seemed simple enough.

Like the man in the glass, he wasn’t too tough.

He can see out and people see in.

Yet he thinks he can hide again and again.

He represents a man with poor self-awareness.

He killed his inner child and thought we wouldn’t notice.

The picture show was harder, but I think I cracked it.

The girl all alone was a shallow meth/crack head.

Her bottomless hunger was a strangely shaped hole.

She numbed it with pleasures but it just left her cold.

The lens is what stumped me. I thought it’d reveal

The world as I saw it, but instead it stayed sealed.

 

No you fucking idiot, my instructor chided.

You got it all backwards, my teacher derided.

The riddles were clues, my Maestro invited.

That it’s not about you, my sensei confided.

 

The glass box is your identity. Paper thin, artificial and see-through.

You can’t make human connections because you’re stuck in a prison made by you.

The picture show is the story you tell yourself about yourself.

You’re the main character, everyone else are props on a shelf.

 

That’s a terrible rhyme, I said, pouting.

Shut up.

Finally, the lens is the world you see as you may.

The problem is you have it pointing the wrong way.

She flipped the lens over, and suddenly I saw

The whole world was people. Humans all.

Of course, how could I be so stupid!

I’m too self obsessed. Self absorbed. Self-

 

Stop it. Just stop, my mentor instructed.

The problem is you, but the solution is not, kid.

Don’t wallow in grief like a narcissistic douche canoe.

Stasis is death, so try something new.

 

Break through that glass and get out of that theater.

There’s people to connect to. So go forth, dear reader.

Nobody and the Spider (14)

She

 

Previously

 

96%

98%

=

“Why don’t we all take a minute to breath and figure this out?” James asked, sweating profusely.

“We don’t have a minute. What’s your answer, Hot Brass?” Nobody asked, pushing the knife further into the hero’s neck.

=

“Wait wait wait,” Cho said tapping his screen. “We skipped something. Go back.”

A new window opened.

 

Memory files fragmented.

Would you like to compress them?

Y/N

 

“Sure,” Cho said to no one in particular as he typed Y.

The window disappeared. His computer started making a loud whirring sound as the fan went into overdrive. Then the box itself started to smell weird. Like burnt hair and oil.

Recompiling.

50%

78%

99%

=

Hot Brass and Blue Wave agreed to follow the four of them as they made their way to the tunnels below. The tunnels were dimly lit. The red emergency lights down there made it feel like they were descending into Hell. They still didn’t know how close the danger was. Spiders hunt everywhere. In tree tops. Underwater. Even underground. Trapdoor spiders hunt prey by waiting beneath the earth in pits hidden from sight. Except that’s not really hunting. Hunters move. Hunters prowl. Hunters stalk. Wolf spiders are hunters. These jokers were simply trappers. She was a hunter. She went after prey on her own two legs.

=

“She? Who’s she?” Cho asked.

She. She was being hunted. Deep within the labyrinth. Their web closed in all around her. But she was a hunter too.

“Okay. Cool. But who is she?” Cho asked again.

Would you like to know more about S.H.E.? the computer asked.

Y/N

“Is my computer talking to me?” Cho wondered. The cursor blinked. “Whatever,” Cho mumbled, pressing Y.

=

The trail led to the Cosmo complex in the heart of downtown. It was faint but still good. She would be… happy wasn’t the right word. Relieved when the job was finally done. This had been one of the more frustrating ones she’d taken in recent memory. Who knew an overweight attorney could be so hard to kill? The car pulled up next to the security gate where a Cosmo security guard waved them away.

“Yo, this place is closed,” the guard said before his face was destroyed by bullets.

Three more guards rushed the car with AK-47s and were disposed of in short order. She noted their no-so-corporate-friendly assault rifles and curious number of tattoos. She exited the car and ordered her driver to find a good hiding spot. With clockwork precision, he complied and drove the mess of a car deep inside the distribution area where its active camouflage feature disguised it as a pallet of silverware boxes.

She entered the guts of the Cosmo, located underneath the complex and connected to every other part by way of tunnels, shuttles, and mini-rail cars. She encountered more security guards but none of them expected her and so she ended them easily. Then again, few ever expected the kindly old lady to be a world class assassin. But that’s because she was playing way above their level. There was a whole world out there beyond what a couple of rent-a-cops could even imagine. This was the pros. The big leagues. They didn’t stand a chance. One after another fell to her silenced rounds and the occasional neck snap.

Somewhere near the center of the complex, her internal Geiger counter started going haywire. What was this? She figured she was right above the power core or thereabouts. What ungodly reason could they possible have for nuclear power here? Not to keep the lights on, surely. Her curiosity was piqued, but she still had a mission to finish. The mystery of the Cosmo’s nuclear core would have to wait. Wait. W-w-w-ait. W-W-W-W-W-w-w-w-w-w

=

Error. Unable to recover memory, his computer chimed.

“Shit,” Cho cursed.

The information you requested about S.H.E. is now available. Would you like to view it?

Y/N

“So fucking weird. Good God,” Cho mumbled, pressing Y.

S.H.E.

Super. Human. Exterminator.

The ultimate weapon designed to fight the differently powered enemies of America. Started by Project Monolith, April *4, 19*2, S.H.E. would go on to serve multiple tours in Iran, *ibya, Soma***, Nicaragua, and *******. After multiple incidents of unlicensed violence against non-targets, S.H.E. was designated to be decommissioned. She never was.

Memory recovered.

78%

96%

=

The tunnels were dark in the emergency lighting, but the rail of lights near the ground was enough to guide them. Nobody acted like he knew where he was going, but in reality, he knew very little of Cosmo’s understructure. He’d studied it once, when he thought the Crime Lords were plotting something huge against the Cosmo, but nothing came of it. The map was blurry in his memory. Four big circles, three big curves, two parallel tracks meant to bring personnel to either side of the complex. He hoped there would be an emergency exit map somewhere close by he could cheat off of, but so far no such luck.

“Sucks about all this,” Blue Wave said as they snuck through the tunnel.

“Yeah. Terror attacks are such buzz kills,” said James, no filter left to stop the sarcasm.

“Yeah, but Hero Fest of all places. Very unlucky,” she continued. Hot Brass gave her a sidelong glance, wondering what she was up to. “I mean it’s the event of the century. Literally. With the Centennial just a week away, I knew some baddy was going to try something, but I didn’t imagine it’d be like this.”

“Well, I’ll be glad to get out of here soon as possible,” said Mallory, eyeing Blue Wave suspiciously. There was something about her that was hitting her brain wrong. Something familiar. Blue Wave smiled under her mask.

“Are we almost there?” Tina asked.

“Halfway there,” Nobody said. He wasn’t 100% sure, but he was sure enough that he didn’t want to worry the others. They came to a T-intersection. His worst nightmare. A wrong turn meant walking four city blocks in the wrong direction.

“Something wrong?” Hot Brass asked.

“Give me a second,” Nobody said, looking left and right. He couldn’t see a damn thing down here.

“Please just hurry,” Tina said. Her scarf wrapped snugly around her, trying to comfort her.

“Should we split up?” James offered.

“Hell no! Never do that,” Mallory chided him.

“It was just an idea,” James grumbled.

“Well, if our fellow hero doesn’t know where to go…” Hot Brass began.

“Left,” Nobody said, taking a gamble.

“All right then,” Hot Brass said.

Left took them in the direction of the hotel and the mall. Some handy signage told Nobody as much. Lucky break. After another agonizing minute of walking, Nobody stopped in his tracks, which made James and Mallory bump into him.

“Everything okay?” Mallory asked.

“Shh. Listen,” Nobody whispered.

They did. The air shook with a low hum. The floor buzzed with energy from deep below. They could have been in the belly of an arcane factory, gears grinding, pipes rattling, hidden behind these concrete walls. They could have been in the belly of an actual beast that swallowed the tunnel whole, its hearts pumping molasses-like blood through its body. Humming. Thrumming. Pressure in the ears. In the soul. It was maddening. Tina couldn’t take it. James could barely handle it. Mallory was unnerved and inching toward panic. Nobody was an oasis of calm in the maelstrom of sensation around him. What he’d heard underneath all the white noise was the hiss and crackle of a hand held radio.

The silhouette was easy to miss in the low light, but with his sunglasses off and his eyes adjusted to darkness, Nobody saw him. A security guard slumped against the wall, blood pooling on the floor next to him.

“What is it?” Mallory asked.

“Stay there,” Nobody said. He knelt next to the body.

A hole clean between the eyes made clear the cause of death. No other signs of struggle. Nothing apparently taken. Wallet and keys were still there. The thing that caught his eye amidst the gore was how loaded with gang tattoos this guy was.

At first, Nobody had assumed because of the uniform that this was Cosmo security, but he was pretty sure they had a policy against tats like this. And he was pretty sure AR-15s with extended clips weren’t Cosmo standard issue either. He knew there was something wrong before but this confirmed it. This guy was definitely a Spider.

“We have an impostor. A dead impostor,” Nobody said.

“Shit,” Blue Wave said.

“Shit!” Hot Brass said evenly louder.

“Why is everyone… oh Jesus!” Tina shrieked.

“Oh god. I’m gonna… nope,” James said, running away to hurl in peace.

“A Spider,” Mallory said.

“Spider? You mean like the gang?” Tina asked.

“This is worse than I thought. If he’s not alone, that means they’re operating on the inside and whatever’s going on runs deeper than a simple takeover,” said Nobody.

“What makes you think that?” Hot Brass asked.

“A hostage situation is easy. This kind of infiltration takes planning and coordination,” Nobody said. Hot Brass shook his head without realizing. He was impressed.

“God damn it,” Blue Wave said under her breath, pulling Hot Brass aside while the others justifiably freaked out.

“What are we going to do?” Tina sobbed into her hands.

“I don’t know, but it’ll be okay,” Mallory said, holding her.

“You don’t know that. How could you know that?” Tina asked.

“Oh god. Hurk!” James squealed as he retched.

“Because we’re with a bunch of superheroes. And we got these,” she said, jiggling her gauntlets.

Nobody couldn’t help but notice Hot Brass and Blue Wave freaking out too, but in a very different way. Like guilty people about to be exposed. Blue Wave was doing most of the talking. He overheard her saying things like “high caliber” and “clean kill”. Hot Brass noticed him eavesdropping.

“Anyone have a plan?” Nobody asked, adding a dash of fear and uncertainty to his voice.

“I… I need to call my team,” said Hot Brass, grabbing his cell phone and stepping away.

“I hope you have a lot of teammates because we’re gonna need all the help we can get,” said Nobody, almost forgetting to leave out the ‘golly gee’.

“Don’t worry, kid. We’ll figure something out,” Blue Wave said. She was losing her cool fast. She wanted to act, but she couldn’t. Nobody couldn’t quite figure her out, but his gut was telling him not to turn his back on the two of them.