Patrick Samuel

Six of Swords

So, I walk into birdsong

after three days of pulling cups

to weigh emotion against

intellect: regretful transition

in the forecast, no other blue

like it. But isn’t this balance?

I’ve dived from springboards

before, into cocky shows

of flexibility, little splash.

Slapped my toes, turned

and looked for entry—

gone only until my chest

caves. This is my take-away-



episode. Once I access the full

potential of my mental capacity

(whatever that means), I’ll be

able to levitate and look down

on the things or people I’ve left.


Ten of Cups

So, all’s not well.

Kept from the beach


we grocery shop.

We “vacuum” 


and “cook.”

I give myself


a good look

in the mirror.


Who cares about

James Van Der Beek? 


See, the whole world

goes around me


in there. I tend

to my hair that’s not


James Van

Der Beek enough.


Getting old is noticing

new spots,


bumps, your bones

changing shape.


Sorry, my bones.

Yours are golden, I bet.


Let’s meet at the beach.

I’m getting a haircut near


there on Thursday.

The only way to sit


will be to face away

from the sunset, but who 


cares? Some dick 

will be swinging, no doubt.

Get me a sandwich

as if James Van Der Beek


asked. Egg salad.

The grocery store


we can’t escape

serves tacos. Ask


Tara, she met us

there with Jesse


the other day 

for an impromptu lunch.


We grocery shopped,

too, and their salmon


was pretty

expensive, so we grocery


shopped a cheaper

piece of meat to grill.


What’s crazy is that after

a year we’re sick


of our bodies coming

first. An entire platter


of brioche French toast

skipped over, like earlier


when a LOST 

CHICKEN sign caught 


James Van Der Beek’s 

eye while out for a run


around the block.

He’s so cute!


I mean, one man’s prison

is another’s rehabilitation,


right? I mean, Ken is someone

we actually know.


Four of Cups

So, the first time someone called me

cavalier I ran with it, saying there’s “nothing

I can do,” and was like: yawn. For real,

though, I couldn’t really “do” anything

and I was sick of people shooting their shit

all over the bathroom stalls. The lower

road felt higher. My own burnt roof

of a mouth. Blah in the ashes. People

on HGTV build tiny homes in their “paradise,”

and I’m like: how do they finance that? People

should talk more about how they afford things.

I buy so much weed. I buy sparkling water

and hate how Caren calls it fizzy. Pail or bucket?

How about soda pop? But today, against a tree 

and then the sidewalk because the tree didn’t work, 

I smashed the fuck out of my earbuds for dying 

in one ear. For the weekend. For matinees.


The Empress

So, now that I’m here

I’m not quite sure

how I’m supposed

to stand. To hold

my hands up or

if it’s ok to let limp

my wrists, tea time

fingers. I’ve tried

writing forever

about how boys

called me girl

growing up, and how 

instead of comfort

I got instructions 

to attack next time. 

I’ve tried writing

about the anonymous

sex I had a knack

for, my uncle Mark (gay, 

dead from AIDS.

My mom never coming

out for me to her co-workers) 

in the back of my head, 

Erik over my shoulder.

I want still

to be fertile, to bring

that out in someone

close or not close.

Recently, I called Jane

a piece of shit, and thought

fuck her kids. Enough pretending

we’re closer than we really are.



Author Bio

Patrick Samuel lives in Chicago where he received his MFA from Columbia College in 2013. He currently works in academic publishing at Northwestern University Press. His most recent work appears or is forthcoming in Animal: A Beast of a Literary Magazine, Columbia Poetry Review, and Prelude.