How to Be Alone in Chaos: 10 Easy Steps

by Mary Abbruzzese, Leah Blevins, Jessi Cornell, Arthur Malcolm Dixon, Steve Dennis, and Laurence Foshee

Step 1:

If you happen to be lonely, just like me, the best advice: Cover every inch of empty surface with plants; you’ll need to drown yourself in tasks—probably much like you’re drowning the plants.

Step 2: 

Take a nap. The TV is only negative, though enticing, energy. Oh, by the way, the OG&E says using too much energy is dangerous at the moment. With the gas levels at an ultimate low, they recommend turning down the thermostat. Sounds like it’s best to slip into hibernation.

Step 3:

Get a half-dead Magnolia tree from the clearance section of Lowe’s. Use a small painted shovel from a gold digger Halloween costume to make a hole in the yard. Consider calling the utility company about digging holes. Have two tequilas, and plant her in the ground anyway.

Step 4:

Put makeup on to prove it was only ever for yourself. Take it off. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone, not even you. Put it back on for your therapist so she doesn’t worry.

Step 5:

Think about what you would be like if you were somebody else, because you are, and make your acquaintance—there’s no better time than when you’re alone to meet someone new.

Step 6:

Mute yourself.

Step 7:

Only answer every seventh time your mother calls to talk about how the election wasn’t really stolen and don’t you think the President’s dogs are adorable and when do you think I should start looking for my stimulus check in my bank account?

Step 8:

Carefully ration the number of liquor bottles that go into your blue recycle bin just in case your neighbors get insanely curious and have noticed how your leaves have still not been raked and how you sometimes stagger to the mailbox and only manage to grab the Amazon boxes from the front porch on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Step 9 and 10:

Turn furtively to the poetry corner of your apartment. The flickering throb of the floor lamplights plugged into a series of dusty splitters fails to transmit your ebullience of islands of personal taste or future enrichment, your eyes wandering the spines of Denise Levertov, Louis Zukofsky, Whitman, medieval Tuscans, their referential mania within a lonesome laptop Tommy Flanagan piano solo.

Step 11:

Break the rules. Especially if you wrote them.

Step 12:

Rearrange the furniture. Get an analog clock, like that one in your aunt’s kitchen. Leave a note on your neighbor’s doorstep. Open a window. Breathe. Ignore the rafters; they don’t know you by name.

This group attended the editor’s flash prose class through the Center for Poets and Writers at OSU-Tulsa in spring 2021. They wrote the piece together during one (virtual) class period. 2021: Maybe 10 is 12. Wait, what are numbers? What’s time?

Mary Abbruzzese is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in various on- and off-line publications. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with her big galoot of a pup, Maverick, and holds an MFA in writing and literature from Bennington College.



Leah Blevins says her purpose in life is to educate, advocate, and create. She works with many local nonprofits in the Tulsa area to fulfill her dreams of helping others realize they have a story to share.



Jessi Cornell is making things up, writing them down, and working full-time to keep the self-loathing at bay. She is accompanied everywhere by her gentleman schnauzer, Harley.



Steve Dennis is a graduate of St. John’s University and the University of Minnesota School of Law. He is currently the HR director for a media company based in Tulsa.



Arthur Malcolm Dixon is co-founder, lead translator, and Managing Editor of Latin American Literature Today. His translations include the novels Immigration: The Contest by Carlos Gámez Pérez and There Are Not So Many Stars by Isaí Moreno and the verse collection Intensive Care by Arturo Gutiérrez Plaza. His work appears in AsymptoteInternational Poetry ReviewLiterary HubTrafika Europe, and World Literature Today. He works as a community interpreter and is a Tulsa Artist Fellow.


Laurence Foshee is a Tulsan and a general studies major at Northeastern State University. He has work in Dragon Poet Review, The Drabble, eMerge Magazine, The Tulsa Review, and a forthcoming anthology honoring the legacy of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street as well as the victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.