Joseph Kerschbaum: 2 poems

Photo by Ian Chen on Unsplash

Fermi Paradox

You would not traverse a trillion parsecs 
to secretly dissect a cow
& dispose of its steaming carcass 
in a cornfield. Explore 
a universe worth of light-years 
to discover the needle that is me 
in a haystack of galaxies 
only to annihilate my species
with your electromagnetic death ray. 
Our violent projection of you
is ourselves in Martian costumes.

On a cosmic scale,
we are crude fauna 
recently climbed out 
of our primordial soup.
Your existence is inevitable 
& likely undefinable 
to our primitive comprehension.
This is a long-distance call,
an interstellar radio transmission,
to guide you to our celestial position.
Follow these sonic breadcrumbs. 
Please find us.
Pry open our fancy fish eyes, 
scorch the parchment scrolls
of false truths & folklore 
we crafted & misguided
ourselves with for centuries.

Overwhelming distance 
renders us stranded & alone. 
Even if you were to notice
our microscopic blue dot,
you need to be millions 
of light-years into your journey, 
traveling at light speed, 
to arrive in time. At our current pace 
of self-inflicted annihilation, 
no one will be left 
to leave a light on. Out there 
in the pitch dark void, you are
endlessly isolated too.
Do you ever wonder what is out here?
No one is coming to save us.

Contemporary Haunting

Forged phantoms manifest 
after she coaxes them 
into existence. Perpetual 
anxiety seance 
conjures counterfeit monsters 
from every awful thing 
that could have but didn’t 
happen. She is tormented 

by the litany of near-misses, 
potential threats that lurk 
under the settling wake 
of her day. These unrealized spirits 

are brutal & relentless. 
They breathe in reverse 
& reside inside a past 
that never occurred.
They haunt a future 

that doesn’t exist. 
They patiently wait 
on themselves to be born 

from nothing. 
She lies awake & watches 
the diaphanous border of this world 
undulate against the threshold 
of an inverted reality
where countless fault lines 
break apart  
with the slightest 

misstep. Stare
at a crack 
in the ceiling
until it resembles 
a hairline 

fracture. Listen 
between the darkness, 
she hears catastrophe 
whisper in a loop,

an echo
chasing itself
around the room.

Joseph Kerschbaum’s most recent publications include Mirror Box (Main St Rag Press, 2020) and Distant Shore of a Split Second (Louisiana Literature Press, 2018). Joseph has been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Indiana Arts Commission. His recent work has appeared in journals such as Hamilton Stone Review, Panoply, Flying Island, Ponder Review, Main St. Rag, The Inflectionist Review, Last Stanza Poetry Journal, and Black Coffee Review. Joseph lives in Bloomington, Indiana with his family. 


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