Artist Statement:

Hi! I’m Mike Atkins! Despite my use of question marks, I don’t like writing about happy things! The story “It’s Not Absurd, It’s a Bird,” was essentially an experimentation in what I could and couldn’t do with my own writing and style. It’s the culmination of a workshop deadline, months of reading only Vonnegut, hating writing/reading conventional short stories, and a sudden realization that I didn’t have to write things that I didn’t feel like writing. The poem “Ha.” is what came out when I tried to write myself out of a case of insomnia. “Mishearing Him as Saying, ‘Distribution of Health,’ Made Him Seem More Human,” was my brain realizing that the Occupy movement was a good starting point for a lot of the thoughts I had on society in general and is one of the first pieces . “The Man in the Moon is the Man is the Moon,” is inspired by the Man Man song “Van Helsing Boom Box.” It’s about that song, loneliness, and outer space. I enjoy exploring existentialism, alliteration, humor, permanence, things we pretend have meaning, death, and ice cream. My favorite flavor is probably chocolate chip cookie dough, which I just realized has a fair amount of alliteration in it. It’s funny how things like that happen. It’s funny how they don’t, too.

Mishearing Him as Saying "Distribution of Health" Made Him Seem More Human

Mike Atkins


Mishearing Him as Saying, "Distribution of Health," Made Him Seem More Human
You're probably sitting on a chair right now,
it's probably a nice one
and it probably came from a store
for less than $50
because when Asian children
ship their dreams off to factories
and leave with stubs for fingers
that bleed when they try to affix the watch
that their dead grandfathers gave to them
before preventable, expensive diseases took them away,
it makes for a good ol' fashion capitalist buyer's market.
And you probably feel bad about that right now
but give yourself two hours, two days,
two weeks and you'll forget because there's no
Asian boy crying at your feet
begging you to pay more so he can keep
writing love letters, and holding hands,
and jerking off
like any normal 13 year-old boy should.
And then you'll think about when you were thirteen,
wondering how often you jerked off,
or held hands
or felt normal.
But then you'll realize that you had money
and think that money doesn't buy
happiness right before you think
that happiness isn't health
and food stamps recipients
can be the fortunate ones.
Because there's a boy
sleeping in sewers
with the sad stench of sepsis
coughing up blood tar sticky,
stuck, spread
across his fingers like
God's first gloves
after He ripped His hands
from Adam's chest
and screamed,
"Call me Frankenstein
after it's written
some 5,000 fucking years from now!"
Then He blushed,
and cover His face out of

embarrassment for
speaking such words
and left us to our own
devices, too busy washing
blood stains off His hands too busy
to realize we were following
suit, in a quest to outspend all this


And there's spit collecting
in the dip of that
boy's cleft lip that smells like
rotting meat left out in
the sun in the middle of
summer in Texas for two
days and reminds you
of that time when you were 12 and
you were at your friend's house and
the two of you found his cat
who had been missing
for 2 weeks dead in the basement
when you traced the smell of its
decaying rotting face,
twisted in agony,
to behind a couch and,
he didn't know what to do,
so he cried, and
you didn't know what to do either
so you cried, and
then he asked you
why you were crying and
you didn't know why you were
crying so for the first time in your life
you shut the fuck up
for once
and realized that some
people were worse off.
But it wasn't the only
time: when someone's family
died or whenever there was a commercial
on the cable your parents pay for
about starving children in Africa to some
depressing background song written
by a washed-out Canadian
whore who was popular

in the early 90's but then stopped
making as much money so she
became less important than
the dying kid she got paid to stand by
for 15 minutes, hips full
of ground-up mostly cows
(because Styrofoam is cheaper)
and enough golden-fried
potatoes to make people in the Great Famine
shove them up their asses while
a little boy stares hungry at the camera
into his own hollow ribcage.


And the people protest in New York
about the people going poor
in America
but not even
money can reimburse
that beaten, miscarried
ideal, unnatural
tears shed in
lei of assistance.
And the people stay silent in Africa
about the children dying
empty in their


And the people debate
between buying a new Kindle
or waiting for the release
of colored e-ink
because it should come out
in the next year
or so,
and is it really worth
buying one now
to buy one later
when the new
iPhone is already
out and the new one won't
be here for around
8 months
or so.



Euphemism Campus Box 4240 Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790-4240