★ Three Poems by Kelly R. Samuels

soft cartel april 2018


Something like before
and during the exam,
all the word problems
in need of solving.
This house
on this lot shaped like so,
its perimeter this.
Or calculus with this
representing this, so then…

panic setting in.
The leg jigging,
the beads there,
above the upper lip.
Your eraser tearing the page
with the grubby work of it.

Later, a swell
and surge. The thrust
of chair
and withdrawal.

This woman here
and this man moving
out and away.

How fast,
the question.

1 [fan-tod] noun 1. Usually, fantods. a state of extreme nervousness or restlessness; the willies; the fidgets 2. Sometimes, fantods. a sudden outpouring of anger, outrage, or a similar intense emotion.


The first definition, no. Or rather,
only three times, long ago
and far away, like that country of its origin
and yours. Or, most of yours – recall
the grandmother from Prague. Ah,
he nods and smiles, hearing that.
As if you make sense now.

The second, yes. Often.
Though you do not keen. Do not wail. Have never
pulled your hair out.
Rather, mute queasiness, like motion sickness,
but without motion.
And the necessary food of the sick bed: dry toast
and sliced banana, an ice pop
not unlike the snow you used once
to cool your tongue – snow that had just fallen
and lay, thickening on the walk and lawn, that kept you

from the third – that riot. From
tapping into, yes, those bohemian ways
(And he nods some more.
More fervently.) heard all the more
for the frozen ground,
because of the bare trees,
carried on the wind
that rattles the panes.

How odd, this word. For its assumed frolic and frisking.
Let’s go to the katzenjammer tonight. Let’s katz & jam.

But, no:
What comes after.
Or always.

2 [kat-suh n-jam- er] noun 1. the discomfort and illness experienced as the aftereffects of excessive drinking; hangover. 2. uneasiness; anguish; distress. 3. uproar; clamor:


Who sleeps and dreams and does not want to wake
because of? They rise and fly or lie in sun or cross
paths with that one they have been waiting
all their lives to cross paths with. Not you.
For you, mornings are negotiation with yourself.
A reasoning that what you dreamt did not occur. No,
you have not perished, trapped in a car underwater. No,
the love of your life was not in the arms of another, smiling. No,
your teeth did not drop to the ground, one and two
and three and four.
But this process is difficult. You have lain in a mood for hours,
the sheets rucked around your thighs. How are you to move forward?
You try for that song from that musical from that time of angst,
but it doesn’t work. Has never worked. Has, in fact, worked
the opposite.
You fall back on the lives of others, those who sleep and dream and do not want to wake because their lives, their daytime lives, are something akin to horror. Doing so helps. You are able to see the sense in thirty minutes on the bike and brushing your teeth.
But all these dreams – the during and the after, the anxiety,
the wringing of hands, takes its toll.
There’s a dry cough.
There’s a pain there.
Your hair is thinning.
And all this furthers
the wringing of those hands.
And the dreams worsen.

Your grandfather died in his bed,
in his sleep, they said.
It must have been
his heart, they said.
But he had not seen three decades.
And no one confirmed.
What dream dreamt?

3 [suh-mat-uh- sahyz, soh-muh-tuh-] verb (used with object), somaticized, somaticizing. Psychiatry. 1. to convert (anxiety) into physical symptoms.

Kelly R. Samuels lives and works as an adjunct English instructor in the upper Midwest. Her poetry has been nominated for Best of the Net, and has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals including Burningword, The Summerset Review, Kestrel, The Carolina Quarterly, Rappahannock Review, and Chiron Review.