The Xi Movement (Karen Steiger)

So I talked to Alan last night,
for the first time in a long time.
You heard that his wife left him, right?
She joined a cult.
Which is kind of hilarious.
I mean, it’s very serious and sad
and a terrible, terrible thing,
but it’s just a little funny, right?
Anyway, he said it started when she
bought some vitamins after watching
some late-night infomercial.
And the vitamins came with some DVD
that was all about positive thinking
and empowerment,
and the DVD advertised some online forum
where you could chat with other people who
were empowered and taking these vitamins,
and on the online forum, there were meetups
in the city, and Beth started going to the meetups.
Then the next thing Alan knows,
his wife is in a cult.

I looked up the “movement” online
out of curiosity.
And the most popular Google searches were
“Is the Xi Movement a scam?” and “Xi Movement cult.”
And I think if you leave your husband
and your three-year-old kid
and your mortgage and your job
behind to move in with a group of people in New Mexico,
all over some vitamins,
then yeah, it’s a cult.

It’s a cult, so naturally
they’re all hush-hush about what exactly goes on
at the “Wellness Compound.”
(By the way, no one lives in “compounds”
except for cult members.)
People who have come out of it have given interviews,
and so far, it seems relatively harmless,
except for the way that the members
throw away their jobs and families
and give all their money to their leader, Brother Ben
(total cult leader name).

No one has been ritually murdered;
no mass suicides
It sounds like a lot of meditation
and vitamins
and a very restricted diet—
no meat, no dairy, no grains, no soy, no sugar, no wheat, no fruit with seeds—
I’m not sure what’s left to eat after that.
Anyway, more vitamins and meditation
and allegedly no sex,
but you just know everyone is banging Brother Ben.

Beth left Alan maybe about three or four months ago,
so he’s still really upset,
but I guess he’s coming to terms with it?
I asked him, shouldn’t you have her kidnapped
and deprogrammed or something?
But he said that it wouldn’t save the marriage,
and things hadn’t been great for a while anyway.
But he’s got to raise his kid all by himself now,
and he still needs to work, of course,
so day care costs a fortune, and he has no social life.
His parents live in Indiana still,
so he’s thinking of moving out there
just to get some help with the kid.
But he’s not going to get a good IT job
in the middle of a cornfield.
And if his parents still go to
that strict nondenominational church,
he might as well join Beth in the cult.
So I don’t think he’s actually going to do that.
He says his greatest fear
is that Beth will all of a sudden want to take their son
to live with her in that starvation camp
with the meditation and the vitamins
and freaky sex with Brother Ben.
I told him he needs a really good lawyer.
God, can you imagine?

The last time I saw Beth,
I ran into her at a Whole Foods.
This was months before this whole cult thing.
And she seemed very thin and fragile
with dark circles under her eyes,
and she was very annoyed with her son,
but he’s three, so of course you’d be annoyed.

She trapped me in some seemingly endless conversation
about toxins and her long list of food sensitivities,
and oh my God, who cares?
She seemed too delicate and brittle for our world,
So maybe this cult isn’t the worst thing for her.
maybe she feels really free now.
Like she can be her true, unchained self.
Maybe she gets a lot of reading done
and has great skin.  I don’t know.
I wouldn’t join a cult.
Certainly not any cult Beth would be in.


Karen Steiger is a poet, fiction writer, and future breast cancer survivor living in Schaumburg, Illinois, with her beloved husband, Matt, and two retired racing greyhounds, Giza and Horus. She is the founder of her poetry blog, The Midlife Crisis Poet, and her work has been published in The Wells Street Journal, ArsenikaThe Pangolin ReviewLeading Edge Magazine, and Black Bough Poetry. Her poetry will also appear in a future edition of Kaleidotrope and the May and June editions of Mineral Lit Mag.


image: Alan Tenhoeve