“If you’re happy and you know it” by Nicholas Alti


grow more hands

if you’re happy and you know it

become a monstrosity


If you’re happy

and you know it

and you really want to show it

give me the skeleton

of everything that’s gone extinct


give me

the fossil of optimism


If you need water

or will wilt

and you know it

sit still

and pray for water


feel yourself wilting

and wilt


Look into the night sky

tell it

I want to put you in a bowl

as if you were a fish

to illuminate my room

as if you were the night sky itself


Look into the night sky and offer it all of your hands


If I’m happy, I don’t know it

I keep growing hands

reaching them out

for something to grab and hold and

gently, over time, make warm


I don’t know why I look at a constellation

and imagine it burning

wanting to place it in my face

so you can watch the inferno of catastrophe

leak from me


I don’t know it yet

if when I learn alchemy

I can twist my face

into an apology

but I can certainly turn myself

wax, mold myself

into the shape of sadness

wearing a crown of strange flowers


and I can melt into a viscous creek

of fantastic colors







Nicholas Alti writes with and about trigeminal neuralgia, depression, addiction, and an affinity for strangeness. He’s an assistant editor for fiction and poetry at The Black Warrior Review. There’s more of his work at Dream Pop, Hypertrophic Press, The Hunger, Pretty Owl Poetry, and elsewhere.


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