6.12 / October 2011

Baltimore IKEA

listen to this poem

Both thirty-two but looking younger than our years,
we make a cute couple
as we wander artificial living rooms and kitchens,
poking fingers through denim belt loops,
testing out loveseats,
wondering if other shoppers invent stories about us.
Do they imagine we’re planning a wedding,
preparing to grow old
and share a life of ordinary comforts?

Does anyone-
the three-year-old pulling open kitchen drawers,
the teenager testing how far an office chair reclines,
the sales staff in yellow polos and bored expressions,
the elderly woman hefting a wok to check its price-
does anyone suspect the truth?

We began our day in another state,
drove ninety minutes to Maryland
to spend the day at Johns Hopkins Hospital,
where your blood was drawn and urine analyzed,
where you answered questions about mood and memory,
where you talked about the increased twitching in your feet,
where you tried and failed to walk a heel-to-toe straight line,
where the doctor’s downcast face added to your fears
that you are in the control group,
that the nickel-sized maple-flavored wafers you chew each day
are placebos
and won’t slow the progress of the disease
destroying your body and mind;
so while you may have five more decent years,
you will be institutionalized in fifteen
and dead before I retire.

At Ikea, we try to forget.
We sit on a plush couch and stare into a corner
where an entertainment unit butts against a bookshelf.
We can pretend we’re in our own cozy, well-furnished home,
as long as we look away from the exposed vents crisscrossing the warehouse ceiling
and keep our backs turned to the enormous, cluttered space all around.

Justus Humphrey was born in a kitchen in Hoonah, Alaska, and has also lived in Arizona, California, Maine, and Pennsylvania, where he currently teaches college composition and basic writing. He has an M.A. in English from the University of Maine and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. His work has previously appeared in Bayou Magazine and REAL: Regarding Arts & Letters.
6.12 / October 2011