Excerpt from an Intervention Letter (and other poems)

Excerpt from an Intervention Letter

Most evenings you dwell in that narrow space between ardor and anger, reciting Shakespeare and smashing all the dishes. At intervals, drinking every beer in the apartment and stumbling down the stairs. It’s scary how much you wander for your age, blacking out and waking up in some other zip code. Each night out becomes an excuse to cuss out some loathsome doll who had it coming. Some bartender diluting drinks. Some Ken doing Barbie wrong. The bystanders triggered, intoxicated witnesses to the sobering aftermath as you become a typhoon of expletives and cleavage. By morning, you trash every memory, even of our make-up sex. The creamer sours and I burn the bacon to black. You top your morning coffee off with vodka while I lean toward the imaginary knife you hold to my throat.

To procrastinate unpacking boxes in my apartment, I go to see a Tarantino flick

on its second run in a discount theater 
with the enthusiasm of a fan on opening

night. In case you haven’t seen the film,
I will not spoil the plot twist, though what

is there really to spoil since every storyline
is a blatant rehash of some other narrative,

but let’s just say a hero turned heel exactly
when you would imagine a betrayal to occur.

Depending on how you define dishonesty,
the ending was unsurprising. My divorce

was not finalized when a stack of papers
were signed, notarized, and processed.

It happened days later, when I ran into her
friend at a cinema lobby concession stand,

and, with popcorn in hand and sincere eyes, 
she proclaimed you’re probably better off.

A Beginner’s Guide to Sin

I. After assassinating your faith, savor the contact high from the gun’s secondhand smoke. Exhale, then cough out any residual innocence. Recognize what bruises already know — your damaged heritage, its aching reminders of your conflicted interior. You now belong to the fire of careless desire.

II. Lose your religion or identity—find a cocktail napkin and doodle frantically, knowing what idle hands eventually become. Stop preaching sermons to the emancipated horizon since reality ritually harasses the backside of every dream.

III. Your lies become a homily, a desperate incantation of half-drowned hallelujahs resurfacing, gasping for air. Be the most honest hymn people will ever sing, but realize they might still condemn your lyrics.

IV. As a street preacher shrieks Armageddon soliloquies, you hope for an antidote to commonplace chaos yet revel in the tiny apocalypses of daily life, the bumper crop of success harvested from seeds of deceit, how longing and envy only make good on promises at a price.

V. The desire to affix meaning to desire is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The feedback loop echoes a somber testament atop the mountain we go tell it on.

VI. Stop clutching the talisman of other’s beliefs when what’s wrong feels liberating. An open mouth often talks its way into a closed casket. An open mouth becomes a wound that never closes, never heals, never whispers amen.

VII. Forget scripture—with its shaky walls and rickety bridges, its cracked foundation jerry-rigged with prayers. Praise the spilled liquor staining the nights with 100-proof roadmaps to false redemption, until mattresses reluctantly weep their solemn confessions. Until unfaithful spouses bow their heads, begging for forgiveness.

One Last Poem about Divorce

It is apparent now there are no endings,
just winters that vanish, and then, 
when the time comes, reappear 
just as autumn’s faint warmth wanes. 
Hope doesn't even end when one hits hard 
times: a layoff, an eviction, a trial separation. 
It just dilutes, transforms, and, at most, grows 
distant. I thought a world after you 
would be a world without you, but here you are 
humming within each memory, whistling 
in the background of every whispered prayer, 
you who have always found some way 
to meddle with everything, even joy.


  • Adrian S. Potter writes poetry and prose in Minnesota. He is the winner of the 2022 Lumiere Review Prose Contest and author of the poetry collections Everything Wrong Feels Right, Field Guide to the Human Condition, and most recently the hybrid collection And the Monster Swallows You Whole. Some past or forthcoming publication credits include North American Review, Collateral, Road & Bridges, Obsidian, Paper Dragon, The Comstock Review, and The Maine Review.

  • Photos of the water and sunset in Buzzards Bay, a bay in Massachusetts that contains osprey but no buzzards. Photos from WM Robinson.