Poems from The Journey to Kailash XII

/ Friday, April 29th, 2011 / 2 Comments »

The Strip Search


The Gate said “Abandon All Hope.”

I thought I’d tossed all my hope away,
but when I stepped through the Gate, it still pinged.
One of the guards slithered out of its seat,
snarling as it drew forth a wand.
C’mere, it hissed,
it seems you’re still holding out hope.

Its crusted hide was a Venus landscape up close.
It brushed that cold black wand all over my skin,
put it in places I don’t want to talk about.
Snaggle fangs huffed in my face:
Sir, step over here, please.

Then the strip search began.
My flesh rolled up & tossed aside for mushy sifting.
Bones X-rayed, stacked in narrow rows, marrow
sucked out, tested, spit back in.
They made me open mind, heart, soul, shook them out
like sacks of flour, panned the contents
for every nugget of twinkling hope, glistening courage;
applying lethal aerosol
to any motion that could be ascribed to love or will
or malingering dreams —
sparing only a few squirming morsels
for later snacking.

Once they were done
they made me pick up my own pieces
(I did the best I could without a mirror)
then my guard kicked me out —
with a literal kick —
sent me rolling down the path to my final destination.

I’ll be honest with you, it’s no picnic here.
But, my friends, I still have hope. I do.

I’m not going to tell you
where I hid it.

“The Strip Search” first appeared in Strange Horizons, Oct. 3, 2005. Copyright © 2005 by Mike Allen. Reading by the author, © 2008. Art: “Dante and Virgil at the Gates of Hell” by William Blake, c. 1824-27.


  1. We’ve got a job for you at our local airport.

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