an abecedarian contrapuntal for Ilan Naibryf, Deborah Benezdivin, Andreas Giannitsopoulos, and Max Solomon Lewis, college students who were victims of the building collapse in Surfside and a stray bullet in Chicago

At a summer party, I ask my son to dance.

******Blushing like a paint chip into successive shades, he

can’t, he says, I’m not good at this, but

******does sort of transpose his feet into an off-key composition,

endearing because of its flat tones, wrong notes,

            Frankensteinian march. He doesn’t know where to put his hands,

gripping my palms somewhere around the shoulders.

            He bicycles his arms back and forth

in an effort to hit the sampled drum machine beat

            juggernauting through the Florida room.

Kinesthesis is easier for him on court and field.

            Later this August he will head back to college,

mother on his mind like a rain cloud crossing an incarnadine sun.

            Not once will he think a body his age is about to be 

origin stories of fires that boil the brain during

            pandemic fevers, crushed in the night while sleeping naked under

quilts that become shrouds, shot in the neck riding on the El train.

            Risk, a lottery drawing for young people who spent their lives reading,

studying physics, economics, and engineering to prevent this siege of realities—

            text we never wanted to learn—teach us meaning, help

understanding. My son. My son, there is a photo of us that shows this

            vulnerability of ties, one you might someday repeat at your

wedding, bodies winched into the air by the arms of others after a surprise

            X-rated bachelor party. Tell me now if it will be mazel tov or murmured

yitgadal v’yitkadash sh’mei raba under this titanic

            zaffre sky, so eternal, so deceptive, so here.


Jen Karetnick‘s fourth full-length book is The Burning Where Breath Used to Be (David Robert Books, September 2020), an Eric Hoffer Poetry Category Finalist and a Kops-Fetherling Honorable Mention. Co-founder and managing editor of SWWIM Every Day, she has work appearing recently in Barrow Street, The Comstock Review, december, Michigan Quarterly Review, Terrain.org, and elsewhere. Based in Miami, she works as a lifestyle journalist and is the author of four cookbooks, four guidebooks, and more. Find her on Twitter @Kavetchnik and Instagram @JenKaretnick, or see jkaretnick.com

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