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Selected Poetry by Charlie Steak

Photo Source: Unsplash

I knew I knew why I’m here


I’m standing naked in my bedroom,

no, a hotel room, no, at the edge of a pool

beside a tropical waterfall

the scent of K-Y, no, Ben-gay, no!

plumeria fills the air.

He is there, I can’t remember his name,

but I’ve always known him.

Bronze skin. Broad shoulders.

Full pecs crowned with nips

stronger and bigger than you’d expect.

Brown eyes, dark hair, and such


Eyes flecked with golden glints

that meet mine as all white teeth

reassuringly shine

and he’s closer

his outstretched finger tracing a slow line

collarbone to abs.

Abs! I have abs! Visible abs!

There is no one around.

Crowds cheer.

Everything around us is green

and wet and shining

except the bright

red and blue parrots

singing tenderly


Some idiot drops

four hundred and five pounds

of barbell right next to me.

I see my skinny old self in the mirror,

hide my half chub

and laugh.

The end comes in flames, or This is what I feel x 1,000


My trees are dying. Because it is too hot.

I can’t find words to capture how awful –

I planted them when I bought this house

thirteen years ago. Three Shamel ash.

Planted on the east side of the house

once they grew they shaded the house

for the first half of every day.

A green umbrella all summer.


Now the leaves are brown and crunchy

on the ground. The branches are bare in August.

I watered them but every day in July

was one-ten F (or forty-three point three in C)

or higher, often one-nineteen

(a blistering forty-eight point three).


I knew the roses would not survive.

(Before in summer their blossoms shrank

to silver dollar size amid the crispy-edged serrations

of slowly failing leaves, valiantly holding out for October.)

My clusters of thorny blackened canes.


Many lesser plants I thought immune

have succumbed, melted down.

Liquefied aloes and collapsed agaves.

It’s the same, all along the street.

Cacti wrinkle, shrivel, and cower -

atrophied versions of their former selves.Some fall over, knocked down by the sun.


I don’t know what to do. My mouth

hangs open and dries out instantly.

Thoughts don’t come.

I cannot bring the garden in the house

or shadecloth the world.

And the issue isn’t more water. It doesn’t help.

There is nothing I can do to save the ash trees.


This world is squashing my head

like someone is sitting on it,

and punching my chest at the same time

over and over,

so I can’t breathe and I don’t know

if I’ll ever be able to again.


It’s incomprehensible that liars go on insisting

we shouldn’t try to stop this

because it isn’t happening,

when the only reality they recognize

is the risk of not making even more money.

The semi-stoned yard man in the wide straw hat,

neon orange long-sleeved T, and wrap-around shades

who trims my neighbor’s palms

surveys the blasted remains along the street,

shakes his head and says,

“It’s not right, man. It’s not right.”


I don’t want to live here anymore.

Charlie Steak currently lives in the southwest USA, where he hikes a lot. The winters are great but gardening in summer resembles Armageddon (or maybe Mordor). He has written scripts for Space 55, Synthetic Human, Rising Youth Theatre, and other organizations. His poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Bluebird Word, Constellations, Dogwood Alchemy, Hare's Paw, Mukoli, Orion's Beau, Pinyon Poetry, Tangled Locks, and Two Hawks.


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