“Passage” and “Piano Exit”


A boy on his bicycle rides up towards some men
Holding one man down to the ground.
Screams ring.
He comes down hard scraping his knee.
Bystanders witness and shout in the sunshine
In the dark, the boy’s father is at a picnic.
He records whatever he can capture
Then he turns the volume up.
I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe
is spread out
On the ground like broken glass.
He stares at the boy in tears
Running away from the crowd.
His last black breath
The man presses stay down, makes no sound
Someone releasing air by the knee where this man’s
had once flown.



Piano Exit

I am in the living room with my mother working out my anxiety.

The way it tastes and feels. I thought I wanted to be everything all at once.

Pianist my teacher brags about like she’s found that Golden Ticket. My peers

listen in for rumors, launching it as a curse when chocolate

is not being passed around.


It’s just for show, I explain to my mother, explaining nothing.

Last night, I had a dream of myself lifting out of my skin

to try on my favorite dress. Crazy, I thought. I laugh

when my mother is looking at me.


Everything all at once:


mise-en-scène behind me holy. My cue is lost

 when the conductor breathes.  The oboe plays a specific pitch

of the note A followed by parts of woodwind, brass, and strings, hoping

for a perfect match. Her baton a semaphore; the oboe leads the warm-up as

a single note struck upon the piano is badly out of tune and jangles on my ears.



Of all the ways to enter.


My mother calls it Piano Exit, and I am ready to go home.



Ilari Pass

Originally from Maplewood, New Jersey, Ilari Pass is a retired maintenance worker of the United States Postal Service. She holds a BA in English from Guilford College of Greensboro, NC, and an MA in English, with a concentration in literature, from Gardner-Webb University of Boiling Springs, North Carolina. Her work appears or forthcoming in RedFez, Triggerfish Critical Review, Rigorous Magazine, The American Journal of Poetry, Drunk Monkeys, Broad River Review, Common Ground Review, and others. Ilari recommends BlackLivesMatter.com.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Monday, September 7, 2020 - 22:35