Thursday, February 28, 2008

The I in the Poem is Me.

Self-Portrait at Thirty-Eight

I wear the names my parents gave me
and one I picked up on the way and refuse
to give up the same way a child drags
a grey blanket. This awkwardness,
mouthful of marbles, cluster of consonants
at the vowel party, connects and reminds.
My name means fair, a word I used
to pair with beauty, but now I see
that it’s the ear of justice, the held
out hand. I listen.
I can’t tell the same joke twice:
A man walks into a bar
with a duck under his arm.
A man walks into a bar
with a pig under his arm.
A man walks into a duck.
A man walks.
Memory’s fence keeps scenes
of milkweed thistle out, blocks
others into perfect landscapes.
The characters who played
main roles in my early life
walk on and offstage in their costumes –
grey sweatshirts, flowered housecoats
disappeared, all given away to charities
to forget the bodies we all held, hugged, hurt.
I’ve been planning my dementia
since I was eighteen –
on a road between two homes,
always driving, I’d imagine
my elderly obsessions with maps
and ribbons, all one long road –
It was cute then.
At thirty eight, I am fearful
of my own body –
living inside of it,
and leaving it, of drinking
from styrofoam cups
and living over an abandoned mineshaft.
It is this world that I cannot hold
close enough that I also cannot hold
far enough away. I just want to watch
each snowflake dance in a slow motion
spiral, listen to the flame flicker
on this candle without wondering
when it will burn out.

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