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In the Ministry of Loneliness



I queue alone
staring at my phone.
I am given a number.
I fill out forms
that, if approved,
will grant me permission
to fill out other forms.
I am given another number.
I offer evidence of my birth, residency,
educational and employment histories,
psychosocial biases, political delusions,
grammatical pet peeves, and
favorite flavor of ice cream.
I am fingerprinted and retinal scanned
and DNA-sampled and gait-analyzed.
I am photographed, X-rayed, MRIed,
CAT-scanned, ultrasounded, lie-detectored,
breathalyzed, and cavity searched.
I am compelled to vomit up
a DIY Rorschach test and interpret it.
I am asked to provide ten references,
at least three of which know me.
I offer a family tree
going back two centuries.
I submit an amended transcript
of three important dreams
(one of them mine) and
two recurrent fantasies
(both of them mine).
I provide copies of diplomas
and awards and licenses and
pink slips and citations and settlements.
I am asked for but unable to provide
my tax return from 1986.
There is a short math quiz
which doesn't add up.
I check the clock on the wall.
My reflexes and tolerances
and blood pressure and urine
and tendencies and idiosyncrasies
and BMI and patience and resolve
and limits are tested.
I'm not told whether I pass.
I am told several jokes,
none of which make me laugh.
I'm made to enumerate
my compulsions and addictions.
I sip coffee from a paper cup.
My marriages and divorces
are recorded and annulled.
I am given a porn name
and told to list five songs
that evoke my second favorite pet.
The clerk autographs a copy
of my favorite book, dedicating
it "To Whom It May Concern."
I am offered the option
to register to vote and to donate
$5 to cancer research.
I ask to borrow a pen.
I shout ECHO down the empty hall
and hear nothing back.
I am told I must lift a weight
and run a mile and straighten my tie
and establish a baseline and choose
a selection and fill in the circles
and render a judgment and account
for my missing time and explain myself
and make a difference and breathe
a sigh of relief and pay the cashier and
validate my parking and follow my bliss
and compose a poem.

All poems are written and copyrighted by Michael C. Rush.
None may be republished or repurposed without permission.