Michael Passafiume

Beware of Dog

I touch every surface now
as if it’s a pane of glass one
pinky-swipe away from
plunging to the floor.

Pass through doorways
slick as Tom Cruise
in a Mission Impossible,
evading both the security
cameras & a trunkful of C4
about to raze a nearby warehouse
full of evil men.

People are no longer
people, they are vessels,
vectors of contamination,
every forehead a scrolling
neon sign reads:
Beware of Dog.

Today I am at the radiology
store where I’ve purchased
an MRI for my back & brain
(don’t ask).
I sit off in a corner by myself
waiting for my name
to be called, thoughts of
confinement & eardrum-
piercing noise triggering all
the anxiety.

Someone somewhere has surely
expired by the time
a technician appears. I hand
over my paperwork & follow
her into the room my MRI
calls home.

Sign these three sheets.
I obey.
Have you ever had a seizure?


Have you fallen recently & had
a seizure, anything like that?

So, no falling, no episodes,
no seizures of any kind?

Aside from the one you’re
giving me now?

I jam the earplugs in & lay
back & oh, does my MRI have
a lot to say. It’s screaming, demanding
I flee but I’m strapped in &
can’t move. Then it’s blaring an exorcism,
instructing all foreign entities to
Evacuate now!
& I am here
for that.

But mainly my MRI sounds angry,
clanging & buzzing & clickclickclicking.
Every day it’s the same thing,
it tells me,
The firm & infirm resting their weary
parts inside me & I got shit to say
not everybody wants to hear.

Finally on my feet again, ears ringing
madly, a different technician telling
the back of my head to Drink a lot
of water over the next few days.

I hazard a parting glance
at my MRI, give it a nod,
tell it, Let us never
speak of this


there should be nothing here I don’t remember…
after Looking for the Gulf Motel by Richard Blanco

not the curtain of yellow light forcing
itself through the laundry room’s
louvered door, sound of my wife
not breathing on the other side,
blood ringing in my ears as Arthur
barks a string of demands:

Pet me! You weren’t here! She locked
me out! Call 911! Pet me!

not the church bell tick-tock
of the broken hearts I’ve spent
a lifetime collecting like seashells
from the shores of my very own
Dead Sea them lined up down every
dune, every shallow, every trench
I’ve witnessed others fall into
& drown.

not my 4th grade teacher whose name
really was Mrs. Robinson, who laughed
at the silly little stories I wrote, fantastical
observations of our 3rd & 4th grade
classes & who once praised me for telling
another classmate Life isn’t fair &
Mrs. Robinson, if you’re still listening
I can testify: what I told Jeff that day
still holds true.

not my mother asleep on the downstairs
couch, TV’s deafening volume falling
on deaf ears, rising up to meet
my father’s moans in that echo chamber
of a master bedroom—another night,
another nightmare—& me having
been startled awake, standing in
a darkened hallway, caught between
worlds, tiny monster boxing inside
my chest screaming, Out! Out! Get me
the fuck out!

not the brother & sister I love
fiercely, unreservedly
& for whom I’d do anything
except keep in touch—
my god, but the three of us do
a piss-poor job of communicating,
don’t we?

not the ex-girlfriend from high
school who, decades later, told me
how much our time together had
meant to her, how hellish her home life
had been back then & I felt a prickle
of guilt for wanting to ask,
Do you still have my
class ring? You see, I’d barely worn
it when I gave it to you.

not the I should have never perp
walk of self-indictments constantly
trespassing on my brain—
I should have never sold
that place
I should have never moved to
that city
I should have never worked
that job
I should have never fallen
in love
or allowed myself to
be loved

because what is love if not
the beginning of
the end.


Michael Passafiume is a Brooklyn, NY-based writer who received his MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles. His work has appeared in BigCityLit, Jet Fuel Review, Madcap Review, Stickman Review, and Welter Online, among others. His chapbook, archipelagos, was published by Blue Hour Press in 2015. He occasionally tweets from @passafiume and can also be found at michaelpassafiume.com.