PE - just black (final)



Just Black

Machine-gun-fire rain
on the zinc roof.
I wheezed like a calliope.
The cats’
eyes guttered
with the kerosene lamp.
They stalked me,
tails twitching.
Always want to sit
in the allergic person’s lap.
The succubus story:
a cat perched
on a man’s
chest, sucking his breath.
My abs burned.
The river was high.
I couldn’t get to the hospital.
I saw black spots,
then just black.

Police surrounded the big man.
He denied selling cigarettes.
What would an asthmatic
do with cigarettes?
It stops NOW, he cried,
waving his arms.
The officers moved in,
hands twitching.
One came up behind him.
Don’t touch me!
Please, don’t…
He fell like a sequoia, rolled
over a Lilliputian in blue.
Cops sat like cats on his
four-hundred-pound back.
A forearm pressed his throat.
He saw black spots.

About the Author:  Jan Steckel’s poetry book The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011) won a 2012 Lambda Literary Award. Her fiction chapbook Mixing Tracks (Gertrude Press, 2009) and her poetry chapbook The Underwater Hospital (Zeitgeist Press, 2006) also won awards. Her creative writing has appeared in Scholastic Magazine, Yale Medicine, Bellevue Literary Review, Red Rock Review, The Pedestal Magazine, and elsewhere. Her work has won various contests (most recently the Goodreads Newsletter Poetry Contest) and has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in East Oakland.

Artwork: Paul Ebenkamp is author of The Louder the Room the Darker the Screen (Timeless, Infinite Light, 2015), “Four Colors for the Based God” (The Equalizer: Second Series, 2014), “Seizured in the Ease” (Mondo Bummer, 2013), and everything at, and is editor of a few books including Modernist Women Poets: An Anthology (Counterpoint, 2014) and Particulars of Place by Richard O. Moore (Omnidawn, 2015). With Andrew Kenower he curates the Woolsey Heights reading series in Berkeley, and with strings and devices makes music as Position.