The Agent by Erik Lloyd Olson

The Agent

The stranger lounging in the window seat
orders the same as me, but does not eat.
Is he an ally to protect, a threat
to liquidate? No way of telling yet.
Objectives form in time on their own terms.
A signal from my watcher’s eye affirms
the code, a coin dropped on the busy street
IDs the target; I remain discreet—
look at the girl ahead of me in line,
the guy who stole the barstool next to mine,
or the grave matron with her brooding son
who asks me for the time—is she the one?
I ease across the border with my skill
to camouflage, impersonate, or kill.
To a man like myself obeying orders
from pole to pole, the world is full of borders.

by Erik Lloyd Olson

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Editor’s Note: The delightful irony of this poem’s closing emphasizes the rules of our lives. When does the next Bond movie come out?

Zerstzung by Erik Lloyd Olson


The Stasi of East Germany was one of the most effective secret police agencies to have existed; its motto was: ‘Shield and Sword of the Party.’ It spied on the citizenry through a vast network of citizens turned informants, and fought any opposition by tactics of Zersetzung, or the hidden psychological destruction of targets.This was designed to ‘switch off’ perceived dissidents so that they lose the will for ‘unacceptable’ activities… it included wiretapping, bugging, mysterious phone calls, breaking into homes and subtly rearranging their contents… Usually, victims had no clue the Stasi was responsible.

My fond remembrance cannot reconcile
this recent find: I have a Stasi file.

. .No block was free, no park or public square—
the watchers’ eyes were hidden everywhere.
One night I met a girl, despite the fear,
in a loud cafe where no spy could hear.
She smuggled outlawed books, hard-packs of Kents . . .
her ruling conscience was her recompense.
. .We wandered in the darksome, cobbled maze,
slipped through the columns, took the alleyways
to get around marches extolling Marx:
In midnight’s mist torchbearers trailing sparks,
gloriously misnamed Free German Youth,
restricted open routes and sang untruth.
. .We made it to my Wilhelmina flat,
where we could be alone to more than chat.
My inner sanctum there was most uncertain,
all could see in, but for the window curtain.
Laughing, she pulled away from my embrace,
then drew the curtain clear. The only trace
she left was lipstick on a drained carafe.
They got to her, then . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .for my photograph!?
My student years are typed and paper-clipped,
stuffed in a drawer, a strange familiar script.

by Erik Lloyd Olson

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Editor’s Note: A haunting history lesson done in impeccable meter, with perfect rhyme, presses its knowledge into our minds with great emphasis.

The Volcanologist’s Last Words on Mt. St. Helens by Erik Lloyed Olson

The Volcanologist’s Last Words on Mt. St. Helens

Her craggy forehead blows—a landslide shoots
to shave the thicket, mount the threatened steep,
snake down the drainage, gulf the valley’s sweep,
floating cars, houses, trees ripped from their roots…
Black and voluminous vapors rise,
as high as fifteen miles up; the day
is blotted. Solid earth shakes, giving way;
smoldering columns kindle half the skies.
What was a mountain cascades from a spout.
Scientists run from observation rooms.
But you keep on, describe impending fumes;
armed with a two-way radio, you shout
your last words from your ridge, still passionate,
heard: “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!”

by Erik Lloyed Olson

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Editor’s Note: Some people may know that I’m peculiarly fond of disaster movies and stories, and this sonnet’s volta evokes just the sort of urgency and foolhardiness that most confounds me during such drama.