The Meeting Adjourns

By Matt Steel
01 August 2021

For JP

Last month, an office building collapsed, plummeting past its roofline into a sinkhole. Only one man survived. After a three-week coma, he’s awake and ready to tell his story. Savannah Guthrie has the report. 

Can you walk us through the events of that morning? Tell us what you recall. 

Well, it began like any other partner meeting.
“Can I pray for us?” offers the chairman
as he sits with kingly sprawl.
We bow our heads as one,
as if pushed, faces
hidden, silent.
Business as usual. 

I know something is off
when he turns
on the screen,
and the day’s topic
looms in sixty-point Arial:
Business Partnership, or Marriage
without Sex:
a Roundtable. 

“Justice, why don’t you kick us off?”
He asks, rhetorical. 

Justice stands, blinks,
on the table, screams
wordless, guttural. He has no mouth,
only an expanse of skin
writhing as he works his jaws. 

Next is Dignity.
I hear a low growl
from the corner by the fax machine.
She crouches there, caged,
in matted hair.
She quivers, rages, tears at the bars.
She burns.
Smell is death: wrong: danger: get out. 

Pain – in shock.
She lies
on the floor, hiding
under the table, fetal, shaking, silent.
Her color – gone. 

Fear runs in circles around the room,
everyone in the kidneys, leaping away
before they can recoil.
He jabbers – Latin, Aramaic, nonsense.
Skitters across the ceiling. He is

Beauty balances
on the windowsill. Breeze blows.
He jumps. 

Joy – a ground-up mass
of flesh and bone.
I turn
to the chairman and notice
he wears
Joy’s teeth as a necklace.
His grin – priestly rapture. 

Peace? Nowhere.
Went on sabbatical
three years ago.
Told no one
when she’ll return. 

Shame douses himself in gasoline.
Pulls a box
of matches from his chest.
acid, bile.

Anger – bellowing.
Bound to the wall.
Eyes taped open.
his back, wall cracks,
building begins
to crumble. 

And where are you during all of this? 

Designing an eject button. 

I punch it in just as the floor buckles, heaves.
Lift off, quicker than expected. 

Roof ruptures, trees part, metal screams, twists.
Sky –
blue, untroubled, clean.
Light blinds me, covers all. 

Earth opens its jaws.
Mouth, a wound.
building, fire, flesh,
Powerpoint, chairman, prayer. 

I rocket up, up through atmosphere.
Quiet here.
the blackening fringe.
See the patience
of stars. 

I slow, drift, weightless,
half a second. Drop
like a hammer, lightning, Lucifer.
Darkness. Then –
wake up here. 

No idea what broke my fall.
Shouldn’t be alive.
Don’t know
why I was spared. 

Business as usual.