Eli Albert

The Poem Fairy

The Poem Fairy

Sad Busboy

Max approached his quarry with trepidation; he had the same internal monologue each time he needed to lift a pot up the stairs. Why? Why boil the ramen stock in the basement, and then force the staff to take it upstairs while scalding and full? He donned his oven gloves and sighed.

It came as some surprise when he felt the pot slipping away from him on the fifth step. He adjusted his right hand, but in doing so lost his footing on the step, and as his right foot skipped back down to the fourth, his left hand slipped off the pot entirely. As the pot and the stock within tilted irrevocably to the left, Max’s thoughts were still a beat behind, unwilling to fully appreciate the moment he was in. It was, instead, his quick instincts, his drive to preserve the self, that pivoted the rest of his body down and to the right, such that although he banged his shin, the majority of the scalding soup splashed left, with only a bit on his jeans.

The clanging was plenty loud, and manager Jim’s head poked down the stairs immediately. “Oh what the fuck.” Max was immobile, half crouched on the stairs, still recovering. The moment had a dreamlike quality; he found himself reaching for a mental undo button that felt almost real. Jim broke this moment with a curt order. “Well… clean it up!”

As Max went to fetch towels, mop, sponges and whatever else he could scrounge up, he reflected that having to clean soup off a basement floor wasn’t particularly worse than having to lift soup up a staircase.

The late drive in his aging Mazda sedan was more reflective than usual. At 23 he felt underwhelmed by the state of his life. He drove desultorily, pulling the wheel with more force than necessary, not quite paying careful attention to the well traveled path, two well-whiskey end-of-shift shots helping him along. Nobody had invited him out after work, but he was exhausted anyway. He didn’t need them - what he needed was a place of his own. The familiar thought hit him with force as he pulled up in front of the house. His parents’ house. He would have never guessed, had you asked him about his future during that last good year when he was 17, that he would still be living with his folks six years later.

I felt bad for him, I really did. This is where I started to focus in on him fully - sitting in his car, on a quiet residential block, past 1 in the morning, but not going inside. He was just sitting in the driver’s seat, scrolling on his phone. Max! I called. But of course he couldn’t hear me. No one can ever hear me.

Max swiped past a TikTok video of a Florida man splashing around in the swamp with alligators. He watched a compilation of people trying and failing to swing from various ropes into various bodies of water. He watched a snowboarder take a clean, elegant jump off a snowy cliff and land smoothly on a downslope. He swiped past an ad for Verizon Wireless. He swiped right past a well dressed man sitting behind a marble countertop. Then he shut off his phone’s screen and sat. He felt the impulse to move. He told his brain to tell his muscles to begin the task of putting phone in pocket, turning off car, removing key, exiting vehicle. He did, in fact, turn the key to turn off his car, but then his arm fell back again. He sighed and opened up TikTok.

Max only barely watched the video of a triple-kill in Call of Duty; he was mainly thinking about his sister, whose bedroom shared a wall with his own. She would be going to college in the fall. He worked a dead end job. She had friends over fairly regularly. He had to listen to them chatter and laugh. They would probably be up there right now, and he’d have no peace. His only clean jeans were stained with soup. He reflected that he was spending more and more of his free time like this, sitting in the quiet car in front of the house, in the glow of his phone.

I watched him watch a video of a well-proportioned young woman doing pull-ups in a gym, twice. I watched as he swiped past a cute little pekingese turning circles in excitement for its owner. I watched as he swiped - no, he stopped. I watched as he almost swiped past a video of a young man on a stage with a mic in his hand, watched as the little video moved up the screen with the beginning of the swipe, but then moved back down as Max changed his mind, his thumb lifting back off the screen. I watched and then I listened to hear what had captured his attention.

…angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection…

Was Max interested in Ginsberg? I was beside myself. Things had been hard, for me. Nobody cared about poetry anymore. That was indisputable. I mean some people cared, but those people didn’t need my help. Nobody else cared. Max didn’t care, seemingly. But somehow I’d been drawn to his side, in some way I couldn’t properly fathom, and here he was watching a TikTok clip of a young man reading Howl on a stage in Queens. Long poem. Probably wouldn’t go through the whole thing. But yes, here I was, here we were, best minds of my generation and all of that. My powers are limited, to be sure, but if there were ever a moment for a poem fairy, if ever I could bend myself to a purpose, this was it.

Max! I tried in vain to interact with his mind, however subliminally, but he wasn’t having it. His depressed and dissociated moment in the car was not conducive to the subliminal mental connections of a fairy. Max!!

Then I had a better idea. Although this age of computers, phones, social media, and TikTok were rather new to me, I had been practicing in the manipulation of the digital arts and found it to be as easy, if not easier, than my more traditional ways. I reached into the aether, the digital aether, reached and pulled and twisted and searched and found, eventually, a TikTok for a poetry contest being held online. It was a short video which started with a poet on a stage, and then detailed a contest for unpublished poets, first prize $2,000 dollars, entry free, deadline in two weeks. My little fairy heart brimming with joy, I reached again, turning, flipping, inserting just so.

Max swiped to a video of LeBron dunking. He was so lucky to have me. I felt the power of poetry reaching out to him, about to change his life. I could feel my poor boy at an inflection point. The moment faintly shimmered before me. Nobody respects poetry now; I hadn’t had a chance like this in what felt like ages. Max scrolled to a video of a mountain lion menacing a hiker on a remote trail, which he watched with little interest. What he needed was a purpose, which was exactly what poetry would provide for him. I called upon my own personal gods, on Dickinson and Blake, Hughes and Lorde, Borges and Bello. I pushed my power into Max’s phone, into the network of bits, not altogether different from the network of molecules that form the human world, or the network of thoughts and impressions that form the poetic one, really. I pushed and the contest video slid into place. Max swiped past the mountain lion and there it was, my poet on a stage, my contest details. He swiped again.

Green Mill

Ginny!! A delighted cry broke over the heavy traffic on Broadway. Ginny caught sight of Lilah coming around a cluster of pedestrians and grinned, and the two old friends embraced. The frenetic street corner bustled and jostled for attention, cars and trucks trundling by, walkers and peddlers and panhandlers bumping into one another, patrons of two neighboring bars coming and going.

“It’s been like, way too long!”

The sun was dropping over to the west, leaving the sidewalk in shadow, reflecting off the windshields, and Ginny was feeling overwhelmed by the mess of noise and light, but her old friend was still exclaiming over her. “You look great. Just really good. I can hardly tell you popped out two of ‘em.”

She did miss her friend, and it had been too long. She tried to smile, and started to move Lilah toward the door of the bar. A group of high-schoolers walking by interrupted her path on the crowded sidewalk. She looked back and smiled. Lilah of the garish rainbow shawls and big hoop earrings, the platform sandals and extra large purse. “It’s just great to see you, Lilah”, she managed to say. She watched Lilah’s simple, easy reaction to the words. How her face lit up at even this most formulaic pleasantry. A path opened up in the walk and the two women made it into the Green Mill.

“I’m glad we’re here early,” Ginny said to Lilah over her shoulder as they threaded their way towards the front. It was already half-full early in the evening. They passed the bar on their left as they shimmied between cocktail tables, and made it to a small two-top near the stage. “It gets so packed by the time it starts”. “Yeah I bet”. They sat down, put down purses. A beat. They looked at each other and grinned. “How’s everything” at the same time as “So, what’s new?” They grinned again. “You first,” said Ginny.

As Lilah filled her in on the comings and goings of her exciting early thirties, Ginny’s mind wandered. She hadn’t been to the Green Mill, be it for jazz or this poetry slam, in probably ten years. She was thinking back to the last time, to an electric room, a charge of possibility, a sickly sweet clutch in her throat, a romance and a betrayal. Lilah was looking at her.

“We should get drinks though, yeah?” “Yeah.”

They went back up to the bar and waited behind two preppy 25 year olds. It was just a little too loud, the angle was just a little off, and Ginny couldn’t easily talk to Lilah. The two stood in silence for what seemed like minutes before the bartender finally turned to them. “What’ll it be?” He was around their age, skinny face and goatee, backwards beret. “White wine!” Lilah shouted. He looked at Ginny, who shrugged. “Make it two.” Lilah put down her card to open a tab, goatee brought over the wine, and the two threaded their way back to the table.

“What were you thinking about?” asked Lilah.


“Just before”.

“Oh, I dunno.” Another beat. They looked at each other with a lot of fondness but also maybe both aware of a certain gap. They both sipped the wine and sat back and it was OK, being there, the history and charm of the place, the stage up above them, the piano, drums and upright bass resting there in the back.

Lilah asked Ginny about the kids and they were on familiar territory, Ginny launching into a short synopsis of the last couple years’ adventures and milestones, basically autopilot. Daniel was 5, he was playing soccer, he loved the Ninja Turtles - Michelangelo especially - he was so sweet, so innocent. Charlie was 2, just figuring himself out, cute as a button in his little jeans and assorted hand-me-down OshKosh. The two friends batted catch up back and forth. Lilah was with a new partner, a girl. They were figuring out what their relationship meant to them. They were thinking about moving in together but it had only been 10 months, summer was close and it would be so much cheaper and more convenient. Ginny was still happily married to Mark, he was a dear, he was obsessed with work, he really probably worked too hard, he was also still playing video games a bit late into the night, she wasn’t really sure why he did that to himself, but he was good with the kids and they loved him. Lilah was happy for her.

The bar was filling up around them as they talked. Now there were only one or two open tables left, what with all the poets. Poetry slam was for poets, and the Green Mill was full of them. Ginny wondered how you could tell if someone was a poet. She asked Lilah in a quiet voice, who only looked at her with her head cocked. “I think we need more wine,” Lilah said, “hang on”. Ginny was alone at the table but resisted the urge to check her phone. She hadn’t been away from Mark and the kids in months. She looked around at the bar and let the old memories flood back again. She felt sick, but pleasantly, like, hurt, aching, but deliberately. Sitting in Al Capone’s booth in front by the stage and the men’s room, being a regular at every slam every week, being there, in the group, her group, with her friends, signing up on the sheet, stepping up on stage, nervous those first few times but then not at all, just ready, nodding to the jazz band.

Lilah came back with two wine glasses. “These are quite full.” “I may have smiled at the hipster kid.” They laughed. The first glass was a glow in Ginny’s stomach, and she sipped the one in front of her eagerly. When had she last let loose? Lilah was happy to see her friend unwind a little and they both smiled. “What did I miss?” asked Lilah.

“Well, the place is filling up.”

“Sure is. They’re going to read some poetry, eh?”

Lilah had never been to the slam, so Ginny filled her in on the rules. You just sign up and read. Is slam poetry different from regular? Well sure, it’s more of a performance, the genre and style definitely has its own rhythm, its own subject matter, even, and of course there’s the optional improvised jazz band backing. Lilah was intrigued. Ginny tried to change the subject but couldn’t think of anything. An awkward silence. “Wait so where do you work now?”, she managed. The bar was getting louder. Her phone buzzed but she ignored it for now.

A flash of disappointment on Lilah’s face, but she picked up the conversation anyway and started describing the online startup company, marketing, what that meant, what that actually meant. Ginny tried to pay attention. Her mind was still on poetry. Her second glass was halfway down. “It’s really pretty boring,” Lilah was saying in summary. Now that the tables were full Ginny felt a definite sense of crush, of space and air and the reduction in freedom of movement. She wasn’t used to this big crowd in this tight space. She realized the silence had drawn out again and she cast around for the first thing in her head.

“How can you tell if someone is a poet?” she asked, but really she already knew. She knew about the hunger in the eyes, a certain distracted impatience. Lilah looked around. “Like I guess basically everyone here is, right? Well, hey we could be poets!” Ginny looked at her. “I used to be,” she responded.

“WHAT!?” Lilah hadn’t realized. Well really why would she. They’d met two years after Ginny stopped going to the Green Mill every Sunday. Two years after she gave up on getting published. Two years after him, after all of that, and still eight years ago. “You could read a poem!”

Ginny was shocked. But then again why had she even suggested the Green Mill? In her head, in her pre-game walk-through of their evening, there was arriving early for a good seat, catching up, killing time, shootin’ the shit, and then the show, listening to some poetry, scoping the scene, checking in on how the kids were doing these days. It had never occurred to her that she could read. Lilah was still staring at her, eyes wide, mouth slightly open, those big earrings swinging. Ginny demurred. “I haven’t written anything in ten years, there’s absolutely no way.”

And that’s how it would have been, if I hadn’t been there. But a poetry slam is a great place for a poem fairy, so there I was, faintly shimmering with excitement from all the spark and lightning in that crowded room. I’d been listening to these two catch up and mostly manage to keep their conversation going. I’d been enjoying their connection as they drank their wine and opened up a bit, and I’d helped Lilah coax the bartender into that heavier pour. I remembered Ginny. I remembered her style a decade before, up on the Green Mill stage, microphone out up high in front, left arm crooked onto left hip, head back, looking down her nose at the crowd, playing with them, pausing on certain words, teasing out the meaning, her short hair flashing, the jazz band straining to her melody and phrase. The memory filled me up and overwhelmed me and I had to help.

“You can do it,” whispered Lilah. This was me, although she didn’t know it. I was exerting all the power I had, which really wasn’t much. To Lilah I pushed some pushiness, just enough to work with the slightly whiny edge she already had. To Ginny I sprinkled some drunken lack of inhibition, which wasn’t hard. And just at that moment the lights dimmed a few times and the crowd quieted down, because the M.C. was up on the stage.

“WELCOME, ladies and gentlefolk, to the Green Mill Poetry Slam!” The crowd cheered. As the M.C. explained the rules, a ripple of eagerness settled over the assembled poets and friends of poets. Lilah looked interested, alert, ready. Ginny was a mixture of sick and sad, confused and torn. She was stuck back in the past again, thinking about long nights in hot apartments after slams, working on pieces with her crew, thinking about him, not thinking about him, reminding herself that she didn’t want to think about him. She was also well aware that there was a sign-up sheet, which her name was definitely not on, and so although the thought of reading had brought up all sorts of mainly unwelcome reminisces, the heart-pounding terror of it was faded.

“Well”, said the M.C. “You all look ready for some magic!” The crowd cheered again. “First on our list is a slam regular, but I want to do something a little different tonight, I hope no one minds, it’s just we get a lot of regulars reading here every week, and I think we need some fresh blood.” A couple hoots from the back. “I wanna give a chance for someone new to come and start us off, I don’t care if you didn’t sign up, just raise your hand, who wants to be the sacrificial lamb?”

Nervousness. Ginny was still processing the import of this statement as Lilah’s hand shot in to the air. “She does!” And yes, I definitely had a part in that, my little push, just enough to get Lilah the rest of the way there, just enough to propel Ginny up from her seat when the M.C. agreed, “yes yes OK alright we have our sacrificial lamb right here!” because of course, my two poetic friends were sitting right in front.

All eyes were on Ginny as she made her way around their table and around to the side of the stage, and up the steps. She was lost in a reverie, but also thinking feverishly, but also slightly drunk, but also excited, but terrified, and shaking, aware of her clothes, definitely not what she would have chosen for a performance, of her hair, her glasses, aware most of all of poetry, what even is it, why do I care, this isn’t my life. She nodded to the band and shuffled over to the mic, and the M.C. stepped back. She cleared her throat and then time stopped.

As she opened her mouth to launch into a poem, just as she had all across the city for years a decade before, Ginny realized that she didn’t remember anything. Not one phrase, not one title, not one single word of a single poem from her long history. In that moment it didn’t feel like destruction, like dying, it didn’t feel like a failure, she just felt blank. She wasn’t even nervous anymore. Time was frozen. She knew it would unfreeze in a split second, in one universal tick, and she’d be on stage in front of a packed house with nothing to say. She decided she’d wait for time to unfreeze and see if any poetry came out. Even as she decided this she realized with a rush that time had unfrozen, because people were blinking and moving and looking and murmuring, and Lilah was right there below her mouthing “you can do it”, and she looked inside herself for a poem and that same blankness stared back.

“Well there it is”, she thought, as she pushed the mic back onto the stand. She walked down to the right off the stage, past her table where she grabbed her purse, she was in a little bubble of silence, she knew there were people and events around her, people were talking, but she couldn’t hear a sound, just a single high pitched tone, the M.C. was surely commenting on her as she walked, Lilah was up and reaching for her, but she just shifted to the right around another table and made her way through the crowd, left, left, right, back to the front of the bar and out the door, out onto the crowded Uptown street.


You never want to hear that someone’s lost a journal, because a journal is a sacred thing, and can never be replaced. It was a minor tragedy when Eli lost his, but the events that led up to this began the day before, and really the days before that. Eli was in Israel, on a propagandistic trip called Birthright, sponsored by an international zionist organization called Hadassah, in which young Jewish kids ages 18 - 26 could get free airfare, meals, transportation, lodging, and tours of Israel, in the hope that they might one day move there. Despite being a staunch leftist and hugely embarrassed by Israel’s modern policy concerning the “Palestinian question”, Eli had a great time on the trip, enjoying the food and sights and managing mostly to ignore the propaganda, but also enjoying being cool and popular, which was still a relatively new experience for him. In high school and the first half of college he’d fallen in with the hippies, which potentially made him cool but certainly not popular, but here on this isolated trip with a couple dozen eager Jewish youth the floor for hip was so low that Eli was actually, for the first time, popular.

It helped that by the time the trip got to its last few days in Tel Aviv, Eli had managed to connect with a college friend he knew there and score some hash to share with the group. She had texted him a number to contact, and while the rest of the trip was on an afternoon rest, he’d slipped out of the hotel and over to the address the friend of a friend had texted him, which turned out to be a messy basement apartment that looked like a flop house and smelled like bong water. Inside were three draft-dodging Israeli guys on dirty couches, a brown dog on the floor, anarchist flags on the walls, and a soda bottle bong on the table.

They were cordial, although already quite stoned, and after they’d all shared the bong, Eli bought a small packet of hashish for what he was sure was double the going rate. Pointless to argue, seeing as how I’m a stranger in a strange land, he thought. The hash smelled good and he made his exit quickly.

The other reasons Eli was popular were that for one he could play Sublime songs on his ukulele during the long bus rides across Israel, and for two everyone had heard that unlike the rest of them, he was forgoing his free plane ticket home - he was planning to stay in Israel, visit his Tel Aviv friend, and then fly to Hungary and spend the rest of the summer bopping around Europe. So it was with some trepidation, both at being on his own in Israel but also at losing his delicious popularity in the group, that he bid farewell and walked the other way down the street when the rest of them piled into the tour bus for that last ride to the airport. And just like that - alone in Israel, with just a backpack, sleeping bag, and ukulele for company.

In fact the backpack was stuffed, and one of its contents was of particular interest to me. Three days previous Eli had visited Yad Vashem with the tour, which is the big Holocaust museum in Israel. He was already quite familiar with the subject and had dreaded the trip, for fear of both boredom and sadness, and so when one of his popular friends had offered him an extended release 20mg Adderall, he downed it immediately. During that whole day at the museum his heart raced, everything was shining and more interesting than usual, and Eli scribbled thoughts across pages and pages of the notebook he had brought with him.

That notebook. Eli’s journal. Just a simple Moleskine, black cover, good paper, thrown in with the rest of the critical eurotrip supplies in the backpack - clothes, passport, plane ticket, 2-month Eurail pass, book, toothbrush, towel, tiny cheap laptop given to Eli by his grandma for staying in touch via email, and his best friend’s blue and white striped sweater, lent as a parting gift. The notebook held one other thing besides speed-enhanced thoughts about the Holocaust, which was a poem about sleeping, written by Eli that same night while sitting on the hotel balcony and staring at the moon. Eli didn’t know it at the time, but it was the best poem he would ever write. I knew it, because I’m a poem fairy, and I was very interested to see what Eli would do with it. If I could have any influence at all, I wanted to make sure he shared it.

That evening saw Eli on his own in Tel Aviv, with a choice to make. He was at the beginning of a long and frugal summer, and didn’t plan to arrive back at home with an empty bank account. He walked towards the beach a few blocks away, first a left at the corner by the hotel, then another left and a quick right towards the ocean, and stopped for a cheap falafel. He had planned to crash with his same Tel Aviv friend and texted to see if she was free, but her reply was a disappointment.

Can’t wait to see you, I’m in a fight with my girlfriend I think we’re breaking up, sorry can we meet tomorrow instead?

He responded of course, sorry to hear that, and his friend responded,

I can put you up if you have nowhere else-

But Eli didn’t want to impose. He wasn’t worried. He could get a hotel, he thought, or - and here he made a decision that would change his life - he could sleep on the beach!

He had seen plenty of people sleeping rough on the beach over the last few days, especially on the strip of beach between Tel Aviv and Jaffa, the connected Arab sister city next door. It seemed like a pretty natural thing to do, and it was just one night, right? So Eli went to the beach to scope things out as the sun set. He found a covered pavilion area on the sand where there were already a number of people clearly bedding down for the night, and he picked a spot just a bit up the beach from them, close enough to be in the same area but far enough to not offend, and laid down on his sleeping bag.

He read his book for a while, and stared at the waves for a while, and nobody paid him the slightest mind. When it got dark he laid back on the sand and appreciated the soothing beach sounds, the waves and the seagulls, the low voices to his left. He decided he really could sleep here and got to work, because he wasn’t quite so naive as all that. First he took his passport, cash, phone and hashish out of his backpack and shoved them all down his pants. Then he zipped up his sleeping back with himself and his ukulele inside of it. He grabbed his friend’s sweater as a pillow and looped his arm through the strap of his backpack, so that nobody would be able to take it. Or so he thought. Then he surprised himself by promptly falling asleep.

It was an unknown time in the early hours of the morning when he woke with a start. He was alone on the beach, although he could see the low figures sleeping away to his left. But something had woken him up - it took ten seconds to realize his backpack was gone. The moment felt unreal, like something happening to someone else. He stood up and exclaimed out loud, traced a tiny circle around his tiny camp in the sand, but there was clearly no backpack in sight. His sleeping bag, sweater, ukulele, and stuff he’d removed were still there, but the bag had disappeared.

Without thinking too hard, Eli grabbed everything but the sleeping bag and ran towards the boardwalk. He was still fuzzy from sleeping, but he felt adrenalized and anxious too. As he ran he had the thought that stopping to try and trace footprints in the sand might have been more helpful than randomly picking a direction, but his shocked circumnavigation of the area had ruined that option. He got to the boardwalk scant seconds later and looked up and down. Just a few meters away, sitting on a low concrete wall across the walk, was a young Arab kid, maybe 17.

“Hi, Shalom,” Eli waved and walked over to the kid, and the kid stood up and reached in his pocket and really didn’t look very friendly, and Eli realized that maybe talking to random youth sitting alone at this part of the beach at butt in the morning was a bad idea. In a move that probably saved him a lot of pain and trouble he switched to Spanish. In his best, smoothest Spanish accent Eli explained he’d been sleeping on the beach and lost his bag, and that he was visiting from Spain. The beach kid didn’t understand very much of what he said, which on reflection Eli decided was probably fine, because there was no backpack in sight anyway, and as his senses returned to him he mostly just wanted away from this situation without getting mugged a second time. The kid looked bored by the Spanish and shrugged and sat down again on the wall, and Eli said “gracias chao” and backed away, and back to the beach.

What a situation! What a way to start a multi-month continental tour! But this is where I left Eli, because although I really felt for him and hoped he would make it through the night and then the summer, his journal was on the move, and I had to follow. In fact I barely caught the end of his terrified conversation on the boardwalk, because most of me was already following the backpack - Eli had been right in his instinct, the bag had moved up to the boardwalk, and in fact the thief had walked right past the Arab kid, who hadn’t noticed a thing.

Now I followed the thief, who wasn’t anyone special, really he was just an Israeli kid about Eli’s age. He was bored and down on his luck and when he saw a dumb tourist asleep on the beach, he’d whipped out a knife, cut through the strap, and slipped away with the bag. Eli didn’t even wake up until a few minutes later, by which time the thief was already strolling through the streets of the city, angling up on the border of Jaffa, fairly confident that nobody would bother him at this deserted hour. When he was a few blocks away he ducked into an alley, which in a twist of fate was right next to the hole-in-the-wall falafel joint that Eli had visited hours previous. In fact Eli, if he had only known where to go, could have retrieved his bag inside of a few minutes. But of course he had no way of knowing where to go, and I had no way of telling him - I wished beyond hope that I could put the alley into Eli’s head, just this one little piece of information, nothing, really, and yet far beyond the scope of my abilities.

The thief now tipped out the contents of the backpack, and immediately spotted the laptop. This was good, this was reasonable, this could sell, although it looked fairly budget. In the inside pocket he found the Eurail pass, which was actually more valuable than the laptop, though he didn’t know this yet. He pushed through the clothes and the other pockets hoping to find cash or cards, or a passport, and was disappointed. He didn’t want to spend too long searching through the loot in the alley so he kicked the pile and left in a hurry, with laptop and rail pass, and nothing else. I was now quite agitated, because his kick had spread the heap of clothes into a mess and sent the journal spinning down the alley. Had Eli been there he would have prioritized retrieval of his stolen t-shirts, all of which represented his absolute top favorite clothes, the thrifted Japanese import, the cool lion print from a dear friend, the white shirt completely covered with carefully hand-drawn sharpie art, but that was not my priority.

Since the journal was in the alley I had no need to follow the thief, and watched him amble away. I cast around for the journal and found it under a dumpster. This was bad. I wanted to preserve the poem. Just a collection of words, really. Just some nouns and adjectives, a few verbs. Just letters on a page, really, just information, but I wanted this particular page to make it. I could clearly see a world where the journal languished under the dumpster until someone cleaning threw it out, after which it was moved to a landfill, and rotted quickly, until it was gone. I sat by that journal, although of course I didn’t have nearly the strength to move it. All I could do was wait, and hope for someone with enough poetry in them to come by the alley. Then maybe I could exert some fairy magic on the situation.

Maybe by now you’ve noticed that these aren’t exactly fairy tales, and they don’t always have a happy ending. But this time was special. As I sat there that morning, there in the mouth of the alley, anxiously flitting back and forth between the people passing by and the journal under the dumpster, getting more and more exhausted, trying, with each passing pedestrian, to see if I could maybe nudge - just a little shove here, a pull there - I felt a new connection. A young schoolgirl, dark skin, angry mouth, long lashes, inquisitive eyes, stopped there at the alley and staring right at me.

Of course she couldn’t see me, could she? I was at the limits of my energy, but I gave it everything I had, to the very dregs of my magic, and before I knew it she was reaching under the dumpster, pulling out the journal, scurrying off, and that was it - I was too spent to even follow her. Eli never found out what happened to his perfect poem and his best t-shirts, and actually neither did I, but sometimes I just stop, think about the little girl with the journal, and smile.