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by Isaac James Richards

Do you have a purpose, a reason for living?

Good. What is it? Is it in your checked bag

or your carry-on? Some purposes are too

dangerous to bring aboard. And how about

meaning? Got plenty of that? Meaning must

be removed and placed in a bin of its own.

You’ve got a body, I see, but where’s your

soul? I’m sorry sir, I’m just following orders,

protocol. Yes, I’m required to ask about your

soul. Do you have one? Please place it in

front of the scanner. Hm, looks like your soul

is out of date. We are accepting only verified

souls these days. Since when? Since 2001.

You can line up over there to get a new soul.

Next please. I’m sorry ma'am, your happiness

showed up on the x-ray. I’m going to need to

pat you down. Rare that we see abnormally

large amounts of happiness. Just need to make

sure you secured it through legal methods.

Thank you, move along. Your suitcase?

Oh, you won’t need it. Not where you’re going.

Anything you can carry with you—grief, loss—

anything you can give to someone else (e.g. love)

is already waiting there, can be found anywhere.

The stuff inside you is what counts, like trauma.

Plus, people usually sleep for most of the flight.

But if you’re awake, we will bring you some

refreshments as consolation. They’ll ask: would

you prefer music, movie, or memoir? Should be

more than enough to distract from the turbulence.

Isaac James Richards is a reader for Fourth Genre, a contributing editor at Wayfare, and a Pushcart Prize nominee. His poems have appeared in Amethyst Review, Constellations, Red Ogre Review, Stoneboat, and several other venues. His most recent work is forthcoming in Oxford Magazine. In the fall, he will begin a PhD at the Pennsylvania State University. Find him online at

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