Salamander 2024 Fiction Contest

SUBMIT: May 1 through June 2, 2024 | READING FEE: $15


Asylum Lake

Brandon Krieg
| poetry


Off the path: the demolished

hospital’s littered

ravine. Single yellow bricks

stamped: Standard Steel, West Branch.

Broken plates, the bottom

of a mug. Jars, jars, jars,

like larvae emerging from mud—

thaw softened them free—I can see

in a week great

industrial moths blacken the sky.

But these are duds

opaque as blown light bulbs,

the broken packed with earth—

earthdark footlights

to a rifled display of brown, outmoded, standardized


some with stitches softened loose, tongues

pulled free—

a gag reflex

takes the ravine.

I am its depressor,

who could as easily lift

from this tumbled,

amputated turntable

a thunderous


a tide

across the blood-brain barrier

like that tide contained once in these unstoppered

brown glass bottles, narrow, buried

in one deep cache—

music, medication time.

The actress playing the nurse

dispenses pills.


Nothing monstrous darkens the sky, yet I can’t escape

that scene, or the language

that has come to make everything—trees, clouds, frozen lakes

its instrument

of self-correction. I am tripped up

by these severed ends


of an ancient wire fence hidden under

a felt of leaves:

the fences are down.

Asylum is everywhere.

Brandon Krieg is the author of In the Gorge (Codhill, 2017) and Invasives (New Rivers Press, 2014), a finalist for the 2015 ASLE Book Award in Environmental Creative Writing. He lives in Columbia, MO.

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