Liquid Nitrogen

Erika Meitner


I dropped my son at a Saturday science enrichment program on campus
then went to Starbucks to work except I didn’t get much done because

last night I drank too much at the bowling alley / I drank too much at the
bar with darts at the entrance / I drank too much at the hotel talking to

my friend Lily about the men who have done problematic things but
haven’t been shunned from our community and the coffee didn’t help

my hangover and I can’t stop staring at the college student across from me
at a raised table who has distressingly heavy black eyebrows drawn over

her own, arced like coal bridges or small tented pelts—she also has a
Girl Gang sticker on her pink laptop, a Save the Wilderness sticker too

which makes me think of the Vigil for the Earth I am missing today
(a member of my synagogue sent out a flyer) where people will pray

and lament because they’re still running the Mountain Valley Pipeline
through town despite everyone’s protests / these days we protest

everything—it’s the same group of us holding up signs about what
we hate (guns, racism, the president, sexism, etc.) and what we support

(immigrants, equal rights, peace, Muslims, health insurance, etc.)
I got carded last night at the bar with the darts and my license had

VOID stamped on it since I just renewed it at the DMV which smelled
like stale smoke and camouflage and asbestos remediation and the nice

but vigilant bouncer made me unfold my temporary license: a piece of paper
that says I am validly nearly 43 and I actually said to the bouncer I’m old

I’m a mom, which means it’s my turn to go back to the auditorium to pick up
my son and wait in the second of two lines (A-M / N-Z) while three engineers

in front of me talk about a Florida bridge collapse: what happened, they don’t
understand, something about water ratios for concrete or stress tests or cracks

and a pipeline blast could incinerate our entire town / on the radio yesterday
the mother of one of the Parkland shooting victims—the girl’s name was Carmen—

said I’m thankful that one out of two of my children came home from school
and at the bar with the darts my grad student says he’s been doing too much

coke lately / lights my cigarette for me / tells me his girlfriend is trying to help
one of the other grad students who’s diabetic get health insurance again

to get his insulin / I regularly weep in my car to the news, especially since
the inauguration and sometimes I wept before it too / we are still waiting

for our children who are in the auditorium / there is a woman further down
the line wearing a black shirt with white lettering: Fuck Gun Control but the

F and K are semi-automatic weapons / when I reach him, his blue coat slung
over his head by the hood, my son says that in the demonstration they watched

a guy handling liquid nitrogen with his bare hands


Erika Meitner is the author of six books of poems, including Holy Moly Carry Me (BOA Editions, 2018), which was the winner of the 2018 National Jewish Book Award, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is currently a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her newest book, Useful Junk, was published by BOA Editions in April 2022.



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