Each new  arrival  walks  into  an incomplete  fiction.
The meaning  of the work  is fragmentary.  The story
has  begun  with  a  driving  question:  “What   is  the
function of  diagnosis?”  or  “What can  be made out
of loneliness?” Lauren  is very  elaborate  and writes,
“What is the meaning  of an accumulation of  coffee
pots?”  When   asked  to   identify  a  yoke,  she  says,
“Thing   you   put   around   an   ox—noose.”  Lauren
withdraws,  stops  doing her  homework,  and  hangs
shards of  scenery:  jigsaw  puzzles,  broken  cameras,
decrees.  All   the  characters  are  happenstance  and
helium.  All the dialogue is conditional. When asked
to      identify    a     tourniquet,     she     answers,    “a
blood-pressure   thingie,”    testifying  to  a  life   now
reduced on the Suicide Potential Scale.  Lauren also
endorses the  phrase,  “I wish I could  be as  happy as
others seem to be.” She sits inside a viewfinder while
the  horizon  scans her  brain for  fires.  The sky  sags
into  a  blue  body  cast.  What  is  the  meaning of  a
mountain of masks?

Copyright © 2023 by Lauren Russell. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 24, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.