Les Kay: Exit Strategy
Joel Peel

Joel Peel


When they come, certain
as next year’s new flu,
will they take the paw prints
on the rented sofa,
sell off that graveled swath
of wilderness where
we napped our Sundays away?

What’s in a home anyhow,
aside from wallpaper
falling from plaster,
a foundation half sinking
beneath magnolia and yew,
a two-car garage with cars
that won’t start?

We try the math again,
revising the stories we’ve told
ourselves about our lucky lives
and imagine packing
the things they can’t
auction off (a grandmother’s
recipes for ravioliand smelt, tattered dog
collars, an autographed

autobiography by Lee
Iacocca). And we cram
these artifacts of who
we were into suitcases
we cannot yet replace.

Fault Lines

Politicians bicker, asserting the crisis
was my fault for having lost my job, 
your fault. Sometimes, I cannot help but believe
their specious evidence, worse than second-
grade science fair data. Sometimes,
I believe our failures, nebulous as credit default
swaps, monotonous as imaginary markets
in skills so soft no one sees them. Sometimes,
I stay myself with flagons of domestic pilsner.

But sometimes, I’m forgiven in my mind’s
confessional; there is coffee and winter sun; 
prayers are half answered by enchiladas,
terriers snorting sleep on paw-painted pillows.
I let myself join them in animal rest.

Exit Strategy

Some days—I forget
about you. The fescue

leaves fall orderly
to be mulched by

an oil-burning Briggs
& Stratton. Catalpas

host traveling cardinals
like cathedrals. Humid

air wraps around me
like skin and then

I think of peeling it all away.

Editor's Note: These poems originally appeared on our old site.

Les Kay’s poetry has recently appeared in a variety of literary journals including Whiskey Island, Sugar House Review, Stoneboat, Menacing Hedge, Third Wednesday, Santa Clara Review, Stirring: A Literary Collection, The White Review, and elsewhere. He holds a PhD from the University of Cincinnati’s Creative Writing program.