Ethical Consciousness

By Paul Killebrew

Canarium Books
April 2013


Middle Name

I’m an old woman.

I wore a yellow dress to the airport so they’d see me.

I got kids, but they’re grown.

I had a sensation to the side of my leg, but not the side where I already had a leg, the other side.

I stepped onto the escalator.

I drew up plans for it in my mind, where on this side it was going to be all glass, so that you could see straight out into the trees and weather.

I sit here sometimes and try to remember what the phone sounds like, and then the thermostat will click or there’ll be a creak or something, and I just about die.

I had worse jobs.

When I was still practicing law I remember this guy asked me if he cut a hole in his roof if he could sue the city.

I said for what?

He said I don’t know you’re the lawyer.


Just Remarried

Every detail of his story is a shadow
cast from some outcropping of his love.
I withdrew from the body.
Heat found its way through the vents,
but no,
the body was outside and life
was nonspecific—breezy looks
through a magazine, thin clouds
like a lampshade, an appearance
less composed than painted.
“Come here, and turn off those birds.”
A careful hour disbands under the weight
of the astonishing trees.
I held that warmth for days after we met.
I waited for you at the coast of indulgence,
a narrow cost that develops between us
when we take a knee under the medieval cell tower.
How did you break your nose?
You were watching the cat skip casually
through fits in the carpet
when the light bulb in the lamp next to you
blipped off, and the startling orange glow
of the sunset colonized your face
and sent you into an impalpable mood.
A couple of kids jumped the fence,
a volvo plunked the notes of the avenue,
the cottonwood formed a salutation on the air
and flipped against a circle
like a melon of batteries.


94 Corolla

As she came up the steps
she saw him through a window
and stopped. It was embarrassing
what I’d convinced myself would happen.
He called it a speech—
a medium-security vessel
for transporting thought across dim borders—
but nobody would know that when he started.
The days in the next room let loose
like they’d been saving up,
pounding out perfectly intelligible catastrophes
from rimless yellow words
spoken through six feet of foam rubber in Los Angeles,
natural and unhappy in a wet diaper.
Is this really what you wanted,
a square at an angle and groan-shaped capitulation?
Take it, then, and go back to your prismatic ratios.
Light reflects off the hood of a car outside onto the ceiling
and bounds from rafter to rafter as it parks.
The crowds keep moving,
and sometimes you recognize
not an exact person
but some relationship among the shapes in his appearance
or the movement of skin over his jaw as it forms words
in a conversation you could never hope to follow.
Shattered, you look down and notice
lenses embedded in the ground around you
robotically pivot toward the elevator doors in the distance
as they slide glamorously open
to reveal a swirl of water
glittering with diamonds and tears.