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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 13: May 2022
Poem: 170 words
By Lori Howe

Help Yourself

—for Patrick

Behind those clear acrylic walls, the robot arm is exposed 
to us, gleaming black even in the dark; as It leaks garnet, 
a metallurgical thickening, It works endlessly, frantic to pull 
back, to rake liquid, to shovel survival from air, all spectacle 
for the ravenous crowds. “Oh, how hungry It must be, 
what thirst.” How hungry must WE be, what thirst, to watch It 
and weep, our throats filled with pigeons and furnace dust, 
needles from long-forgotten Christmas trees: 
without hydraulics, we cannot speak our own hieroglyphs of ache. 
Help yourself: walk out beyond your own glassine walls, 
find the rake and bucket, pull on water-proof boots. Follow: 
the old path to the clam beds, draw them to you, 
feel their feet give way. Forage the forest for mushrooms, 
for a tin box of ginseng. Face east: breathe in the sweet earth 
of a pecan fire, the symphony of crows. 
Make jam in a warm kitchen, knead yeasted dough. 
Let strawberry steam bead. Unbolt. 



Author’s Note:

Inspired by an installation commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum: Sun Yuan and Peng Yu: Can’t Help Myself [Guggenheim Collection Online, 2016]

YouTube video: Sun Yuan and Peng Yu: Can’t Help Myself [VernissageTV, 9 May 2019]

Lori Howe
Issue 13, May 2022

is a co-creator of the new poetic form, the cadralor, and Editor in Chief of its flagship journal, Gleam. Her work appears in such journals as The Meadow, The Tampa Review, Sandstorm, Verse-Virtual, Synkroniciti, and MacQueen’s Quinterly. She is also the author of Cloudshade: Poems of the High Plains and Voices at Twilight (Sastrugi Press, 2015 and 2016 respectively) and the editor of Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone: An Anthology of Wyoming Writers (Sastrugi Press, 2016).

Ms. Howe lives and writes in Laramie, Wyoming, where she is a professor in the Honors College at the University of Wyoming, and mother to a feral cat named Miss Kitty Pants.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Refraction and Ripening, two cadralore by Lori Howe in MacQueen’s Quinterly (Issue 6, January 2021)

New Poetic Form With Wyoming Roots Goes Viral by Micah Schweizer at Wyoming Public Media (4 December 2020); includes audio of Lori Howe reading her cadralore (Numbers 9, 5, and 4)

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