A series of close-ups at summer's end, when the temperature drops and the insects begin to fly around in slow motion as if they're drunk. It's comical, their off-kilteredness, their rough landings on street signs and yard furniture, the carnivalesque concertina soundtrack. Lost perhaps, a ladybug circles low over a birdbath, tracing his reflection. A wasp flies in place, fighting a slight headwind. Days later, when none of them can fly at all, they continue on foot. They crawl like wounded soldiers desperate to remember where they're headed. What they're fighting for. It's less funny now, butterflies blowing away like tiny newspapers into gutters. Bees inching across sidewalks and streets, their dead little wings sputtering weakly at their backs. The music has faded. In the background it's the hum of approaching traffic, a dog barking from an apartment window left open. Then during the credits just the scrape of dry leaves across cement. A few drops of rain striking a mailbox.


In Hazardville

If you sleep at all you sleep with one eye open. You never know what could happen, and you never know when. In Hazardville you can feel it—something always on the verge of giving out or crashing down or opening up and sucking someone under for good. There's quicksand in somebody's sandbox. Rattlers napping in pantries. At the beach a tidal wave brewing in the shark-infested seas. When you're still young in Hazardville, they teach you to grow eyes in the back of your head. It's a long and painful process. Meanwhile you cultivate stealth. You camouflage. You watch your step. In Hazardville the weather is always taking a turn for the worse, and lightning's bound to strike twice when it strikes. It's best just to stay inside, keep calm, keep an eye out. Though no one moves here on purpose, new people wander out of the woods or wash up on the beach every now and then and stay. Dazed and amnesic, they stumble to someone's front door and knock—a little afraid of what might happen next, a little more afraid to go back the way they came.

Andrew Michael Roberts is earning his MFA in poetry at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His work appears in The Seattle Review, The Iowa Review, Pool, Quick Fiction, Double Room, Sentence and Cue, among others. In a prior life he was poetry editor for The Portland Review, and he dearly misses scanning the Pacific Northwest woodlands for signs of Bigfoot.


click here for text-only version