Elizabeth Onusko

History of the Present

I fly on the plane that doesn’t crash.
I walk across the bridge that doesn’t collapse.
I sleep in a bed inside the house
that doesn’t burn down.
All the while, would-be revolutionaries
seclude themselves in basements, scribbling
dystopian constitutions on cinder block walls,
a congress of eminent sentimentologists
debates whether hoarders are the purest romantics,
and the mass wedding of a thousand incompatible couples
is solemnized during a total solar eclipse.
What says the most about me
is not what I believe in,
but what I want to:
the blue glass bottle on the windowsill
neither wills its fall nor stops it.

The Patient

Five doctors each propose
five different diagnoses,

none of which are confirmed
by the traditional battery of tests,

so the hospital calls in competing psychics.
One predicts I’ll die any minute

and the other declares I’m immortal.
We all agree the orchestra in my chest

has gone catatonic
save for a lascivious violinist

who drinks late into the night,
which may explain why

I sleep so deeply
and why, when I get out of bed,

it feels like I’m walking
in water. It’s hard to tell

the difference between giving up
and surrendering, or which

is worse. Outside, the sky
grows brighter earlier but just barely.

Of all the ways the world could say

Elizabeth Onusko’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Linebreak, The Journal, Poetry EastThe CollagistRadar Poetry, and The Adroit Journal, among others, and has been featured on Verse Daily. She is the author of a chapbook, The Prague Winter (Finishing Line Press).


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