Keepers (10)

By: Stephanie Burt
July 29, 2016

One in a series republishing 10 poems — about everyday objects and pop culture avatars — by HiLobrow friend and contributor Steph Burt.




I have no say
over who or what turns me on,
only the power to make things clear as day,

or, at least, as a truculent dawn.
Once a girl brought me to a rave;
I was dizzy, then giddy, then woke up near
      dead on a lawn.

When I look back to my origins, I crave
that chastity, that darkness, but not yet.
I also scare skunks off and represent ways
      to look brave.

I can render the same silhouette
gargantuan or gaunt,
or shake and make it dance a minuet;

it’s you who choose what I appear to flaunt.
When all the people around me are fully
of whatever’s in front

of their faces, where all their
      acquaintances are
and how to find loose change they think
      they lost,
I sleep in my drawer;

I prove I am worth the $1.50 I cost
when the power goes out, and at parties
      with nothing else
that can distract a preschool guest

or coax shy grownups from their shells.
I might be the first thing a kid ever put
I do just what my battery compels.

Unlike my big brother
the limelight and my cousin the campfire,
      I prefer inconsequence:
though famous in culverts and attics,
      I would rather

play no role in public events.
I have never — can never — run wild.
Obtuse, hollow-bodied, confined to the
      present tense,

I’ll be your lightsaber if you are a child,
though first and last I do no harm.
In bad dreams I see miles

of lignite on fire; in my best I keep
      somebody warm.
Sunlight to me is just something I get shut
      off in.
Having resigned myself to my fixed form,

I was surprised to escape the cardboard
of the charity shop that sold me.
Though none of my parts can soften,

the humid summer air can still corrode me.
Pick me up; test me every so often.
      Hold me.




CURATED SERIES at HILOBROW: UNBORED CANON by Josh Glenn | CARPE PHALLUM by Patrick Cates | MS. K by Heather Kasunick | HERE BE MONSTERS by Mister Reusch | DOWNTOWNE by Bradley Peterson | #FX by Michael Lewy | PINNED PANELS by Zack Smith | TANK UP by Tony Leone | OUTBOUND TO MONTEVIDEO by Mimi Lipson | TAKING LIBERTIES by Douglas Wolk | STERANKOISMS by Douglas Wolk | MARVEL vs. MUSEUM by Douglas Wolk | NEVER BEGIN TO SING by Damon Krukowski | WTC WTF by Douglas Wolk | COOLING OFF THE COMMOTION by Chenjerai Kumanyika | THAT’S GREAT MARVEL by Douglas Wolk | LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE by Chris Spurgeon | IMAGINARY FRIENDS by Alexandra Molotkow | UNFLOWN by Jacob Covey | ADEQUATED by Franklin Bruno | QUALITY JOE by Joe Alterio | CHICKEN LIT by Lisa Jane Persky | PINAKOTHEK by Luc Sante | ALL MY STARS by Joanne McNeil | BIGFOOT ISLAND by Michael Lewy | NOT OF THIS EARTH by Michael Lewy | ANIMAL MAGNETISM by Colin Dickey | KEEPERS by Steph Burt | AMERICA OBSCURA by Andrew Hultkrans | HEATHCLIFF, FOR WHY? by Brandi Brown | DAILY DRUMPF by Rick Pinchera | BEDROOM AIRPORT by “Parson Edwards” | INTO THE VOID by Charlie Jane Anders | WE REABSORB & ENLIVEN by Matthew Battles | BRAINIAC by Joshua Glenn | COMICALLY VINTAGE by Comically Vintage | BLDGBLOG by Geoff Manaugh | WINDS OF MAGIC by James Parker | MUSEUM OF FEMORIBILIA by Lynn Peril | ROBOTS + MONSTERS by Joe Alterio | MONSTOBER by Rick Pinchera | POP WITH A SHOTGUN by Devin McKinney | FEEDBACK by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FTW by John Hilgart | ANNOTATED GIF by Kerry Callen | FANCHILD by Adam McGovern | BOOKFUTURISM by James Bridle | NOMADBROW by Erik Davis | SCREEN TIME by Jacob Mikanowski | FALSE MACHINE by Patrick Stuart | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 MORE DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE (AGAIN) | ANOTHER 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | UNBORED MANIFESTO by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen | H IS FOR HOBO by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FRIDAY by guest curators