from A Handbook for Introverts — Lindsay Bell


How to run : remember the grave
danger in our bodies.
How to rationalize running : from an ax-wielder
                      from a dingo
            or a baby
                      from the bully who invariably will kick you
            in the crotch from his bicycle
            and ask you to marry him
                      from the certitude of death
                      from the icy fingers placated by tea leaves
            or typewriters
                      from the fantasy that someone will decipher the wilderness
            in your overheated brain, will name your outposts, reckon
            with your daily adjournments and place your ashes
                      from the pill they make you take
            to the pill you make you take.

Imagine each footfall a failure to take flight.
Imagine an endless sequence of little falls.

The punishment of running toward begets the reward of running away.

Make the body go miles until limbs are tamped down
joints squashed jelly, swollen feet cartoon brogues.

I was not fit to exhaust myself until I understood the character
of fitness as essentially private.
A culmination of the many protracted moments of suffering.


How to go to a party and not wither : commandeer the DJ booth
which is the book of many sounds :
                                                         play some Radiohead.

Learn to mix complicated drinks with intimidating precision.

Insist on expertise, in some way fashion yourself to be the blaring white underbelly
of a plane overhead, descending.

Be careful to leave the soft furniture
in your brain
to rearrange at a later date.

Before you leave home, set the table for dinner, just in case.


Dear the lady who dares not repeat herself
for fear of seeming unnecessary
undersecretary to her baser charms
disarmed by mercurial amorphous
hysterical as though history were chained to being.
She eats clementines with her coffee
sucking the double acidity from her teeth.
It has something to teach her
about searing
how we orbit our sustenance
feed sugar to our death until it opens in our lungs
like a great algae bloom

dear the lady who despairs at her oxygen
sapped by such goading plants.


How to remember energy : a bequest akin to self-sabotage
the act of remembering : akin to resurrection
teach yourself : learn from shut doors
from comebacks, comb-overs, the defiance of philandering
sports commentators.
Gatekeeper matrices, the rule of uncommon codes.
Kick the supposition that the goal is going through.
To be in.

There will always be aversion to the precision of outliers.
Who being so define the deformation of boundaries.
Amoebic ice hockey rink : a pond.
Too genteel to touch with a gloveless hand.


A lady never tells.
A lady never shows.

A quiet nature is so gendered.
Bid farewell : transgression.


Avoid outlets, portents, Tarot readings
and speculative fiction.
Start many projects
but only finish them when Mercury is in retrograde.
Do not attempt to deny the spheres all their dazzling little ellipses.
Like the matryoshka of questions a child would ask :
because why?
The universe will eat you alive : doff your cap in passing,
breathe into your handkerchief.


How to find a job : go to basements unaccompanied.
Speak only to animals
covet such pure exchange of touch
canoodle with darkness.
Trust the economy to balance itself and thus find you wanting.
Everyone needs an employee
who will back away from the company retreat trust-fall.
The secretary needs to learn what it is
to trust-fall into oblivion.
Trust oblivion.


How to pass by conversation unscathed : learn to enact
bracketed space. [ ] [ ] [ ]
The way dead suck the breath from the room
by not breathing.
It’s not a teachable thing, but one that must be endured
to be practiced.

Imagine a series of gestures.
Seat yourself in their midst.
Imagine yourself a series of gestures : the passing of a wand
or witching stick over the earth.
From which grows a wonderful tree
which bears tiny lambs from the ends
of its branches so pliable they bend down to allow
the lambs to feed when they are hungry.


How to find a lover : clear from the air the notion of “involved”.
[ ] [ ] [ ]
Dance on the margins : tango with Rousseau.
Imagine an Argentine sort, low, languid
and arched : such improvisational nods as convey a sense of urgency
with regard to the human condition.
This is an invitation to dance.
Invite candor without recourse to the camera.
Come into the low part of the conversation
with brackets
at the ready.


Lindsay Bell is a poet and musician living near Denver, CO. She received an MFA in Creative Writing – Poetry from Columbia College Chicago. She is the author of the chapbooks The Naughts (Finishing Line Press) and Signs Point to Yes (dancing girl press). Her poems have appeared in Barrelhouse, DIAGRAM, Puerto del Sol, RHINO, Spinning Jenny and elsewhere.