“Dickinson’s Widow” – Prose Poetry by Claudia Zander

Neapolitan Lighthouse – Ivan Aivazovsky, 1842

A lonely lighthouse keeper struggles to stay sane in “Dickinson’s Widow,” Claudia Zander‘s prose poem from our Summer 2017 issue.

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after David Markson’s “Wittgenstein’s Mistress”


AFTER THE END, I’LL JUST KEEP FLINGING my musings into the void.

I don’t watch the news—well, I sort of do. More accurately, I don’t listen to the news, I just keep it on TV, on mute, in case of apocalypse.

My love’s a $10 bill you forgot to take out of your pants before you ran it through the laundry; it’s all stiff & crinkly now but it’ll still buy you a drink.

My soul’s a dreaming dachshund napping in the sun, twitching its paws & chomping at ephemeral squirrels.

My moral compass led me to a treasure map hidden behind a Sugar Ray poster in the Tulsa Hard Rock Café.

Thoughts collide & scrape inside me
like a rusty clusterfuck,
they twitch & blister as they spread their pox across Long Island Sound.
Sighs of anguish, howls of glee
are chiming through my lighthouse home,
they somersault like feisty leprechauns
across Long Island Sound.

Shit, I just remembered a field trip’s coming to tour my lighthouse tomorrow—gotta Febreze everything & hide all my Egon Schiele paintings!

Gonna spend the weekend booby-trapping the windmills of my mind, scrubbing all the Zinfandel stains out of my Metallica T-shirts, and constructing elaborate dioramas based on my most memorable childhood humiliations.

Tonight I’ll be hanging my silky new hammock in the toasty sliver between honest mistake & reckless abandon. I’ll build a fortress from coarse, lint-spangled pillows in the slender valley between false hope & unconditional surrender. I’ll be twitching atop the border of judicious heightened sensitivity & insufferable over-sensitivity.

I use dating apps not because I want a partner nor even a fling, I just need to know if strangers still find me attractive.

My body’s the animation in Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” video; a bit rickety & dated, but it can still charm your pants off & blow your mind. My dignity’s the double-A battery in an old remote control, barely held in by several layers of scotch tape because the tab on the little plastic shield snapped off long ago.

The ghosts in my lighthouse assure me we needn’t fear the future…no more than we fear the present, at least. Eternity loves us dearly.

Sometimes I invent cocktail recipes inspired by escorts I’ve hired. “The Montreal Boa-Strangler” is 2 parts Limoncello, 1 part Black Sambuca; pour over poutine & stir with a lit menthol cigarette.

Gonna spend the weekend filling out patent applications for all my intricate defense mechanisms. Like one of those red-and-green stop/go flags like they have at Brazilian barbecue restaurants, but instead of indicating when I’m hungry or full it’s for when I get my fill of small talk with strangers.

So many people re-read 1984, yet nobody wants to admit they’ve been sucked into a twenty-four-seven two-minutes hate.

When I read the word ‘read’ & I need a moment to figure out if I read the present tense or past tense of the word I read.

My heart’s the maze on the back of a Cap’n Crunch box: Lost at sea, yet easy enough for a child to solve, and the sweet jagged stuff beneath will make your mouth tender & sore. Or maybe it’s a box of fruity pebbles (not the cereal, but actual tiny rocks that taste fruitily).

I’ve spent months’ worth of my life getting high & syncing up random albums & movies. Best match: Radiohead’s OK Computer + Ivan Reitman’s Kindergarten Cop.

The trees laugh at us. The wind cries for us. The ocean longs for us. The moon winks at us. The stars tell us, “Be cool, Yolanda!

Me without you is like a Boyz II Men song without a heartfelt spoken-word monologue before the last chorus. Like watching an old VHS full of ALF episodes and fast-forwarding past all the kooky ’80s commercials.

The windows of my soul are stuck with those “Tot Finder” stickers that the fire department doesn’t make anymore, because they helped all those kidnappers.

Gonna spend the rest of the month writing slash fiction based on all the high school reunions I’ll never attend, constructing pop-up books adapted from my favorite episodes of Jackass, writing detailed Wikipedia entries for every song ever recorded by Wesley Willis.

I have it on good authority that I shall win this year’s Nobel Prize in Fabulous Goth Solitude.

If you stop trying to catapult yourself into my emotional fortress like one of those Angry Birds, I promise to stop singing Shaggs songs in my sleep.

If you could stay another day
I’d hold each hour hostage
and pluck a memory from each minute
like feathers from an ostrich

If you could stay another week
I’d turn each day to stone
and chisel them into monuments
shaped like your pubic bone

If you could stay another month
I’d paint each week a mural
in my own blood, brushed with my hair
and feed it to a squirrel

If you could stay another year
I’d love you for a month
until uncertainty & fear
made your stay a lot less fun

“The Cambodian Cowboy”—2 parts gin, 2 parts OK Cola, garnish with a sprig of Sour Power.

The chips on my shoulder were cashed in for a few extra hours of dream-sleep each night; I already forgot what rubbish game I played to win ’em.

Gonna spend the weekend making a pornographic parody of Empire Records where I play all the roles, Nutty Professor-style. Gonna decode all the subliminal occult messages hidden in old Mr. Wizard episodes. Gonna write & choreograph a jukebox musical of Captain Beefheart songs.

Did anyone else catch the season finale of Real Housewives of Spoon River?

Thank you for clarifying the message of your art; for a minute there, I feared art ought to speak for itself.

My mind’s eye is curated by apoplectic algorithms formulated by socio-political sociopathic weathermen, and paid for by generous donations from Clickers Like You.

Seeking investors for a business like Blue Apron, but instead of quality meals we deliver boxes of Oreos, cigarettes, clean underwear, & Sade records.

Last week I flung my faith into the sea to see if it would float. Today it’s a successful riverboat casino run by otters.

Mr. Robot has me questioning my reality. Do I really live in a lighthouse, or is it just a silo with a really big lava lamp?

Thank you for clarifying the message of my art; for a minute there, I feared my work might be complex, or worse, deliberately ambiguous.

When consensus agrees with me, it’s ‘the will of the people.’ When consensus & I disagree, it’s ‘the tyranny of the mob.’

My Halloween costume this year will be Sexy Alfred Hitchcock Getting His Eyes Poked Out By Sexy Birds From The Birds.

Thank you for clarifying that your art is “scathing satire”; for a minute there, I feared it was just childish name-calling and third-rate Hunter S. Thompson apery.

Congrats: Your recently published essay got Likes from everyone you expected, & Hates from everyone you expected! Precisely what great art should do.

All that stuff we were apoplectic about a couple weeks ago, we’re not so apoplectic about anymore. It’s just so last season. Can’t wait for the fashion gatekeepers to bless us with their sneak peeks of all the hot apoplexies we’ll be wearing in Fall ’17!

The history of the future is an inadvertent conspiracy subconsciously decided by the most clickable narratives.

Legit Threats to Civil Society vs Distractingly Absurd Political Theatre vs The Wisdom to Tell the Difference: Tonite & everynite, only on Pay-Per-View!

Label me whatever, I don’t care. Porpoises don’t care if you label them dolphins, only marine biologists do.

Gonna spend the weekend retconning my middle school diary to include all my present-day parallel universes & alter egos.

Nobody’s ever coming to this lighthouse.

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CLAUDIA ZANDER is a lighthouse keeper living in Long Island Sound.

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