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the office // the after

my office one thousand feet in the sky

is a cube of nothing one thousand

feet in the sky with potted orchids

in the corner that bloom violent

pink twice a year. budget blossoms

because HR says studies show

the presence of plants is soothing

to clients and hey, i like them too.

i’m not complaining, just drinking coffee

metallic-black every faded morning

waiting for the pigeons that shit

daily on my windowsill, flurrying

in gray and green and black and white

and i can’t tell them apart, any more

than they can distinguish me

from every other gravity-defying ape

in this forest of glass—

on long overtime evenings i wonder:

this interchangeability: deliberate?

this soft insistent signaling:

the eggshell walls, fluorescence,

the calculated asymmetry

the caffeine on tap the mirrored

mountain or seashore or rolling gold

quick-shifting plane of the screensaver,

these murmurs get me forgetting

if i was ever given a name—

the air conditioning’s scent is called

mountain evergreen and it smells like nothing

that has ever existed. but on mornings

when i come into the office early

its spice unlatches a sort of truth:

i existed before the falling-apart.

i swear, i remember how

the starlings on the telephone wires

dotted out the notes to some atonal song

and there were fish then, great clouds of them

drifting green-silver through the dark

of the lake and one summer i walked barefoot

in the grassy ditch along a gravel road

until my heels bled, grasshoppers flinging

themselves against my ankles, heat shimmering

off the earth like fish swimming

through the air, red-tailed hawks

watching silent from fence-posts—

these are the things i remember now

when i think back to before they mattered—

there were fruits in the forest then,

salmonberries, pink-blooming plums,

the domed red heads of mushrooms pushing

through the leaf litter and sometimes,

on the luckiest of nights, i’d stand in the air,

just out in the clean evening air,

watch the starlings vortex upwards

in a single inhale.

Esmé Kaplan-Kinsey is a California transplant studying creative writing in Portland, Oregon. Their work appears or is forthcoming in publications such as SmokeLong Quarterly, JMWW, and Gone Lawn. They are a prose reader for VERDANT, a mediocre guitarist, an awe-inspiring procrastinator, and a truly terrible swimmer. They can be found on X/Instagram @esmepromise.

Radon Journal Issue 6 cover art
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