It’s more hazardous
to drive home from dinner
on a drizzly night

now that the snowplows
have scraped
so many reflectors

off the highway,
the studs left scattered
along the sandy emergency lanes

and on the median and shoulders,
long-lasting plastic
that’s lost luster

and mixed in with the litter
we count on volunteers
and inmates to pick up.


The broccoli won’t stay firm to the end
of the week. The half-priced bread
is already stale. The shopper can’t recall

which day is worst for buying fish.
Both the pain reliever and mouthwash
carry expiration dates. Looking up

at the open ductwork, the shopper guesses
that the construction’s just up to code
and that neither the local contractor

nor the chain’s home office will mind
if the space stands empty in five years.
And the shopper doesn’t care all that much.

The woman scanning the purchases,
bored but obliged to be genial, is new
and might last the season out.


My thoughts border on Insanity.

And my thoughts imagine
that, when they’ve crossed over,
they will be more free ranging.
In Insanity, my thoughts anticipate,
they will pursue their dreams.
And, besides, my thoughts expect
that, given a chance, they could add
to the ingenuity of Insanity.

But Insanity’s so sure
that it’s absurd to share its blessings
that it’s become obsessed
with keeping the border closed
to thoughts crazy to get across.


“It was so dark inside the wolf.”

The swallowed girl rescued,
the villain’s sliced open belly
weighted with stones,

the father can now twist the knob
on the bedside lamp
and kiss his daughter good night.

“The better to eat you with!”
She giggles, then snarls,
her hug cinching his neck.

The father knows
that in an earlier version
the wolf lopes away—

the gobbled grandmother
and the tender young girl
left as red-flecked feces

on the forest floor.
And, he suspects,
the girl’s parents mourn

by cursing heaven
and blaming, loathing each other
while begetting another chance.

His daughter tightens her hold.
He weighs telling her
the truer story

but decides to whisper
“What strong arms you have”
so she’ll laugh and let him go.


“Fix quiet.”
—Wallace Stevens, “Prelude to Objects”

For more than a week
she had said nothing,

doubting she was right.
He then felt inept

for having failed to notice.
But now one at a time

the couple walk
back and forth

from the hall door
to the kitchen sink.

Pretending to step
as they always step,

they cross the room
again and again,

both listening hard.
She removes her shoes

and walks in her socks;
he tries bare feet.

They prove she is right:
the floorboard creak

has gone silent.
And what can they do

but send a text
to their daughter’s cell?

William Aarnes has published two collections with Ninety-Six Press—Learning to Dance (1991) and Predicaments (2001). His work has appeared in such magazines as Poetry and The Seneca Review. Recent poems have has appeared in Gravel and Field.