Follow These Instructions

Slow

Follow These Instructions

By Zach Polis

Author’s note: It’s not always clear how to navigate a pandemic. Especially when you’re in one. Through consultation with artists, a set of useful instructions has been devised for your benefit. Please note you may confidently play out the rest of the pandemic with these bankable tips.

CATFISHED
(For Andrew)

Brush away the loose shavings.
The ouija board is finished.
Your best woodcut yet.
Ask it about the late aughts.
It will respond: “Jersey Shore.”
Soften your mind. Think
a little less
practically for a minute.
“Ok, what the hell am I going to do today?”
“Jersey Shore.”
Get in a petty argument.
You’re not like that.
“Jersey Shore.”
No, really stop it.
“Jersey Shore.”
You’re freaking me out.
“Jersey Shore.”
I SAID STOP!

——

You call for help, but no one answers.

You feel a presence.

The Ghost
of Jersey Shore
is here.

This house was never
yours to begin with.

It was always an MTV crib
for a demon.

CREATIVE PEP TALK
(For Haylee)

Bike around as few cars as possible.
BE TERRIFIED OF TRAFFIC.
Watch Schitt’s Creek from start to finish.
Avoid Jasper Ave.
Winter is the hardest part.
THE HARDEST PART.
The phrase
“THESE DAYS” by Nico
will come in handy.

Sometimes life gives us second shots.
If you have a second shot at winter:
Buy a car. And winter boots.

BE THE ONE IN THE CAR
WITH WINTER BOOTS.

These days,
stick to people you know.
AND YOUR ARCHIVE OF THOUGHTS.

These days,
watercolours are uncomplicated
and will set you free.

If you do not have a driver’s license,
GET ONE.

Watercolours are your thing now.
Don’t overcomplicate this.
Forge a fake ID.
DO IT. NOW.

These days,
you can make a very convincing
valid driver’s license
with all your watercolours.

WITH SUPREME CONFIDENCE,
KNOW THAT
YOU CAN GET ON THE ROAD,

BECAUSE YOU ARE A DREAMER…
(who drives)
WHEREVER THAT DREAM ROAD TAKES YOU.

THE VACUUM ORB
(For Pauline)

High Fantasy is your only escape.
You are a queen.
Who wins at Mario Party —
EVERY TIME.
Do not let others
cast spells of doubt:
Sacred Queen of Mini Games
is a birthright.
Use the Vacuum Orb
NOW, NOW, NOW,
against those closest to you.
Whose coins were they
really?

MEDITATION FOR PLACES AND THINGS
(For Luke)

Home gets away from you.
Don’t contemplate it.
Don’t think about it.
You will become obsessed
with the family china
and how it defines you.
You will spend a lifetime
tracking down
all the porcelain plates
in a never-ending quest
to become shiny and transparent.

Your gaze will become fixed.

Is this a psychic investigation
you really want to take on?

Is this a meditation
you will think about
for the rest of your life?

UNCLOSED TABS
(For Morgan)

Screenshot all your unclosed tabs.
Recite it like a map.
It will be impossible to get lost
in the bamboo forest.
Your path is a gentle wind now.

You will remember the way
to IMDb
and the cast
of Crouching Tiger,
Hidden Dragon.

Next week, this open tab
might change you.

You need those tabs.
You don’t know why.

You do not need those tabs.

Clear your tabs.

We are always changing —
direction.

Open yourself
to a field of grass
and move like wind
towards endless sky.

THE COMPLETE PEANUTS
(For Sergio)

Ignore the Instagram algorithms.
Forgo any offerings of:
“The Complete Peanuts Comic Sale, up to 50% off!
Offer ends today.”

26 volumes!
Spanning from 1950 to 2000!
And that doesn’t count the Sunday strips!

Sale: digital only.

You know there is a better way.

Dust off all
that is right
and musty.

Stack the yellow newspapers
high above you —
block off access
to your apartment hallway.
Get used to the risk
of dying by tonnage
at any moment.

That’s how you read a Peanuts strip!

Anything less is pedestrian consumerism.

TRAGIC POTATO BACKSTORY
(For Mindy)

Lose your potato peeler.
The best one. The one with the
ergonomic grip.
You will come to know:
Grief is unshakable.
Potatoes will be your heartache.
Learn to accept this.

SCI-FI BLENDER
(For Brianna)

It’s the near future.
Self-care is in.
For those who can afford it.
The setting:
POST-APOCALYPTIC TORONTO.
The city is overrun:
WITH RACCOONS
and an underground network
of interlocking root systems.
PEACHES, APPLES, KALE
grow wild through the ONCE GREAT,
but now VACATED CITY.

You are an ARBORIST
who refuses to leave —

Despite the GREAT FLOODS
and TERRIBLE WARMING.

You know the raccoons are dangerous,
but they know something you don’t.

You are trying to solve a mystery.

A beacon flashes.

Your sister.

…On the other side of the city?

The commute will be dangerous.

The Age of Tech is over.
Even the Age of Raccoons is fading.

The Mycorrhizal Network is gaining power.

Will you brave the deadly sentient fungi,
work collaboratively with the raccoons,
and save your sister from impending doom,
while unlocking the secrets
of your arborist past?