minimum safe distance 1


Night and day were mid-grey corridors
and everyone was bees and ants,
exchanges without and never within,
until people started vanishing in pairs,
a magician’s trick without a trapdoor.

Nominal leaders declared there was no need to worry:
statistically, you might be fine;
and hermits were in the headlines,
flashlit in their sorry caves.

Unwilling volunteers were strapped on rails by robots,
and laser verniers in lab coats did their math,
argued, and decided.

The minimum safe separation
before an unexpected vanishing with a perfect stranger
was half a meter, give or take an open hand or heart.

Dayglo public transport warnings
spread the message to terrified commuters,
and the morning peak hour grew to meet the evening.


Avant-garde thinkers, never left behind,
devised profitable solutions
for every random human purpose,
extensible, dysfunctional,
and mentioned on the Morning Show
by the charming Isabela, Succubus of the Year.

Tango wasn’t quite the same,
and a haircut featured levered scissors,
a cord and pulley wheels.

My hairdresser, in his telescopic glasses,
apologized, and sponged my blood
with cotton wool wrapped around a stick.

Yet hashtag disappearedaswell was a never-ending avalanche,
through mishap or intention,
and couples crossed with stellar confusion,
lost in calor humano, were lost again.


When Amelia’s auburn hair had grown quite long
and my bloodied ears had healed,
we decided on an interpersonal investigation
inside the minimum distance.

For our final earthly moments, we chose a park
from a finite subspace of parks nearby,
and brought a picnic lunch with a fold-up yardstick.

I felt some marginal concerns around our pending evanescence,
and as we raised our glasses to imitate a friendly touch,
I asked Amelia what might be waiting beyond our world,
with a casual quaver in my voice.

I’d expect a B-grade movie plot—
flying saucers from the kitchen cupboard,
actors dressed in colorized robes,
pointless and unconvincing.

Better than atomic vaporization, then.

She shrugged.

to continue to a second and final part


  • Dayglo is a trademark of Day-Glo Color Corp.
  • My favorite tango is blue (Leroy Anderson, 1952), it has a sense of inevitability.
  • Plan 9 from outer space, considered by some to be the worst film ever made.
  • The story is set in the same universe (it’s actually on the same planet) as the Omégaville series, where Isabela is a well-known media personality.

artwork a finite subspace (detail above)

26 thoughts on “minimum safe distance 1

  1. Did your hairdresser give you a discount for nicking your ear? 😂 But seriously. Your poem is rich with meanings and imagery. I must go back and read it again, more yet to discover.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Every time I think, “this one’s my favourite”!
    Your work is so clever!

    (I remember seeing ‘Plan 9’ years ago for that very reason LOL.)
    I love the art too, it has an ancient, linen quality, like the shroud of someone who might have bled to death at the hands of a certain hairdresser…

    “marginal concerns”, one of many favourite moments, like the hashtag paragraph!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It might be wise to go to a different hairdresser next time. What if the scissors had nicked the jugular instead?
    Atomic vaporization sounds better than being stuck in a B-grade movie plot on an endless loop.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “Everyone was bees and ants, exchanges without but never within.” Yep. And this is Truth: “devised profitable solutions for every random human purpose, extensible, dysfunctional,” Love the flying saucers from the kitchen cupboard!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, BG. No matter how hard I try not to let it, reality leaks into my fantasy. I suppose it’s true of most fantasy fiction, maybe not so much with Lewis Carroll. 😸

      With the flying saucers, that’s probably a little bit harsh on ‘Plan 9,” not by much though. 😃

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Peter. She took over the earlier series, and somehow she’s sneaked into this one. Some of these characters have a mind of their own.

      We so need some serious rain here, don’t know how it is marginally further south. Dogs are definitely the same though. 😃

      Liked by 1 person

  5. every magic trick has an explanation or as you put it a trap door, but we still stand in wonder knowing the truth behind the illusions. I really enjoyed the part of testing chemical reactions with Amelia the red head, like a moment suspended in time with flying dust motes. another mind expanding piece Steve.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Gina. Yes, so much magic comes from our minds, and that is something else to wonder about. We can contemplate our own perception.

      Our minds can freeze moments in time as well, or fast forward over them. Nothing at all like a memory stick. 😃 I had fun writing this piece as it developed.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.