< >

doug paul case


from Letter to the Aliens


sometimes I don’t think of myself
as myself but as
the arm that did that
one thing that one time
and you can have my apologies
dear aliens
that is vague intentionally
dear aliens
lately I have been meditating
with my face in my bedding
and my knees on the blue carpet
and my mind on the wild Vermont mountain
where yearly in my youth I went
camping with my brother and uncle
far enough away from the others
gathered there with their telescopes
and cameras and children
who didn’t have the patience I did
to look up through the tree branches and wonder
and wonder and wonder
dear aliens
if someone on a planet around one of those stars was looking up too
which I would do until my neck strained from the angle
and I lay down on the large flat round rock
I found year after year
that still kept the heat of the day
more than halfway through the night
and one time I fell asleep on that rock
and one time I pulled the pressure from my body on that rock
and every time I thought about what boys might have done the same
dear aliens
it was so close to a tower
constructed of much smaller stones
that stood on a boulder and reached
to just about my height
and it was incredibly sturdy
to survive on what was named breezy hill
for a length of time I could not know
perhaps for decades
having been constructed by someone I could not know
except to know that he showed incredible patience
finding the stones to stack
then to stack them
dear aliens
my first year at the campsite
I passed it three or four times
took it all in
and toppled it
threw my whole arm across its center
sending it down to a place
in time where it no longer existed
dear aliens
I do not remember why
only that my regret was immediate
not even requiring my uncle to scold
which he did
dear aliens
it was art and I killed it
dear aliens
this is not the worst thing I have done
but when I hear about what I hope
are the worst things others have done
it is this toppling I remember
this detachment between my brain and my arm
this tendency to say it was nerves
yes the nerves that did it
I cannot be held responsible
I knew not what I was doing
dear aliens
never believe it



from Letter to the Aliens


when I think about your arrival
and in how many distances it might be
I am saddened most by the fact
you will never know Zac Efron
the most stunning
literally stunning
boy man this planet has ever produced
and I suspect may ever
because while yes our history repeats
seldom does it under circumstances
of such visual pleasure
such musculature and aligned enamel
such bashful confidence
such light
his is a thing to be gazed upon
a statue you could touch
in the park
if erected there
until the best parts turned golden
from the oils of our palms
which are partly our own
bodies’ doing and
partly what we’ve acquired
from what else we’ve touched
and will move unintentionally
or intentionally
to the next thing we touch
which is often ourselves
and more often things
we need or
we associate with ourselves
like utensils we use to move
sustenance into ourselves
like the cloth we use
to decorate ourselves
like the luck
we think we can acquire
if we see the virgin
or find heads-up pennies
or rub John Harvard’s shoe
upon which students urinate
after dark
because they don’t believe in it
or don’t need it
or are interested in oxidation
and pushing time along
and when the rest of us go
to touch it’s impossible for us
to know what’s been done
so we do
or we don’t and we go about
wishing we’d had
and dear aliens
sometimes the nerves in our fingers do all the wishing for us
even if they’re never
presented with Zac Efron’s hand to shake
or ass to grab
or napkin to acquire his signature
the proof we need
to acknowledge that we saw him
there in the flesh
and could have touched him
and could have acquired
a bit of his oil
a bit of the luck he must have
used to get what he wanted
or what we think he must want
because he is as much ours
as he is his own
because of the cinema
because of light and electricity and exposure
and marketing and distribution
and sexual energy
and how he as entered every home
via film rental or tabloid or imagination
and once he’s there he’s there
and dear aliens you’re left
with the wanting and the tingling
and all you can do is hope
someone will get closer than you can
and record everything
you haven’t seen but want
to touch and make golden




Doug Paul Case works as a salon receptionist in Bloomington, where he recently earned his MFA from Indiana University. He is the publisher of Gabby and the poetry editor of Word Riot. His debut chapbook, Something to Hide My Face In, won the 2013/14 Robin Becker Prize and is forthcoming from Seven Kitchens Press.