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39th Poetry Award Winner

Noah Stetzer - Washington, DC

Intruder
By Noah Stetzer
There are sixteen pills on the table, but today is the 12th which means
there ought to be eighteen pills because this month has thirty days, and I
make sure that the bottle has as many pills as days of the month,
every month, on the first of the month. And cause today is the 12th
and there are thirty days with eighteen days left there needs to be eighteen
pills—but there are only sixteen. And I check cause I have a system
of marks and calendars with red ink and lots of math that shows that I
forgot a pill or a mark or both or maybe neither or added
wrong back when I filled the bottle, or just forgot altogether cause
last night I was distracted, and so now I’m worried if one missed pill
might be enough, like maybe a line of a crack has surfaced along
the side of my face, where something’s just a little broken or starting
to break. Because last night the knife went missing, or at least that’s when I
couldn’t find it, the knife I noticed missing after dinner when I
went to load the dishwasher. No big knife in the sink, not the knife drawer,
and no where else in the kitchen and my first thought was it was in the hand
of an intruder, all in black behind the closed guest room door waiting
for a moment, like now during the empty afternoon, when my guard
is down, and I’m alone in the house. Someone holding the missing knife,
making no noise, not moving: all night. But last night in the kitchen, I
thought, “you’re crazy” and then, that I’d slipped the knife into my red back pack,
that I had the knife in my bag in case I needed it. That maybe
I’d packed the knife and then forgot, which makes sense but needs fixing because
I’d been forgetting things more, and what if I have started to forget
big things like this knife in my back pack? Cause I can see needing a knife.
I went to finish clearing this table and wiped off the crumbs and I
folded the cloth so I could go check my red back pack in the guest room
closet and did not find the missing knife there with my just-in-case clothes
and a week’s worth of meds. And so today what’s upsetting is the one
pill too many or one pill off depending on how you are looking
at it, and the extra pill that I may have taken or forgotten
to take. More upsetting is that I can’t account for it either way,
which worries me that something might could now, again, slip up and in.
Noah Stetzer is a graduate of The MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and also a scholarship recipient from the Lambda Literary Retreat for Emerging LGBT Writers and from the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference. He lives in the Washington DC metro area.
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