Elise Houcek


My mom broke up with my dad despite
her kids, I broke up with my boyfriend
for my kids, Zeus gave me renewed strength
that day, the weather was uncharacteristically
arid, the season being February, I had gained
a new sense of the phrase “life is suffering”
having read Creative Knowledge and Poetic
Intuition by Jacques Maritain, which maintains
the soul of the poet is one that “suffers things
more than it learns them” (and more than other
men), since it retracts its energy from civil life
and keeps a reserve for experience, this did not
help me, I blocked him on Facebook, heard
no music, drove past the little house with the lep–
rechaun printed window treatments, in another
poem this image would bleed out notes of mischief
and play, magic and the orbuculum.

The Lime Tree

after Trevor Hall
 I taught my children to always ask why not 
 not why. Why not play the lime tree song, mommy? 
 Why not let love take its turn? Apparently
 this was not like teaching your children to be polite, 
 but it wouldn’t have been fair to switch things 
 at that point. Why not kick the bucket? Why not 
 get a little grand? one of them asked their preschool 
 teacher during a lesson on physics and her glasses 
 nearly obliterated. It was not how I had imagined. 
 Truth is, I’d pictured them on luxury cruise ships 
 presenting at New Age conferences on the apophatic 
 nature of reality. They’d have had a script that went 
 like this: after seven million years of denying 
 our proclivity for swearing we have unlocked 
 the final way to freedom. An albatross would slice 
 across the open-air terrace, and each guest would raise 
 their glass to clink, shiny as a bird call. Anyway 
 it was a dream like that which most parents 
 have for their kids but mine had taken a much less 
 glamorous route: now every time they asked me a question 
 it was as if they were asking me to look at myself. 

Elise Houcek is a writer and artist pursuing an MFA in poetry at the University of Notre Dame. Her most recent project, So Neon Was The Rope, explores illness, gendered violence, and humor’s liberatory power. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prelude, Afternoon Visitor, Always Crashing, Guesthouse, and elsewhere.

Issue 14 • Next: Beatriz Dujovne