Scenario Editor

We only had to take a picture.
According to our mission briefing,
we had to fix the camera
and take a picture of the missing person.
The mysterious block-letter voiceover
said we had less than a day
to fix the camera with a pickaxe
and take a picture of the missing person
in a desert stacked with rattlesnakes.
Decoded, our contact's message
via Cold War teletype told us
for full pay we had less than a day
to fix the tamper-proof security camera
with a pickaxe undetected
and take a picture of the missing person
carrying a briefcaseload of secrets
in a desert stacked with landmines
and rattlesnakes before she died.
We only had to take this one little thing.
For the key to a safe deposit box
holding a systems administrator job
with a heartland insurance firm,
retake one alkaline map-square
scaled an inch to indefinite klicks.
For directions to a jewelry box
with Fourth of July fountains
redder and bluer than any on the block,
take coordinates for one airstrike
ending a Mexican standoff.
For clues toward a shoebox
buried with a stranger's childhood
memories of dirtbikes and sandcastles,
take one shot to hit what might be.
For rumors about a matchbox
of dirt and sand, take breath
straight from one throat. For a box,
take away one weightless item.

Steven D. Schroeder's second book, The Royal Nonesuch (Spark Wheel Press, 2013), won the 2014 Devil's Kitchen Reading Award from Southern Illinois University. His poetry is recently available or forthcoming from Crab Orchard Review, Cream City Review, and Four Way Review. He co-curates the Observable Reading Series in St. Louis, serves on the board of River Styx magazine, and works as a Certified Professional Résumé Writer. (

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761