Box of Oxygen

At the gate     I told the blond ranger a man headed
straight into me as if he’d knock me down

or walk right through my body a door     She smiled
said for some it’s a meeting place     I had to run a long way

to reach the tiny buildings for them to grow to a size
I could enter      At the police station they already had

the facts I’d given     I asked the cops to check
if intruders were in a yellow house I’d lived in fifteen

years ago on Summerlin wondered how I would
ever be safe the lock on the back door unstable

Lots of calm cops assigned to me & I was set on a dais
to be questioned      One cop pulled out box after box each

one labeled “Box of…” something like Box of the Underworld
but not underworld the words were of this world

like Box of Sit in the Car Box of Cloaks for the Traffic
Box of Actual Labor Box of Temporary Relief Box of

Smallest Efforts Box of Matches Box of Repair Methods
Box of Humdrum Box of Overnight Temperatures Box

of Nuts & Bolts Box of Oxygen but not that not those
& the cop would announce each box by its name labeled

on the side in magic marker      then ask me a question
from the box     & houses were faraway though plentiful

as if I were in a field in a painting     perspective made
everything small & distant

Once in a game on a make-believe desert island I wouldn’t
save anyone     I let them all fall off into the carpet that was

the ocean   I was trying not to drink again but did
disappearing into other rooms      I could feel them willing

me to scream quietly & be caught which was hard
to resist    the weight of their wanting.

Kelle Groom is the author of a memoir, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl (Simon & Schuster) and three poetry collections, most recently Five Kingdoms (Anhinga Press). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in AGNI, American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry, The New Yorker, New York Times, Ploughshares, and Poetry. Her awards include a 2014 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in Prose. She is on the faculty of the low-residency MFA Program at Sierra Nevada College, Lake Tahoe, and is Director of the Summer Program Workshops at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.