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Audio: Read by author. 


I see my father walk to work every morning
up Henshaw Avenue, till he is out of sight.
I know he is seeing someone’s back, too.

I see a painting of a young woman on a horse,
part of a caravan of refugees. She casts a glance back
over her shoulder. She has been warned about this.

And there a shrine with thousands of candles,
a prophet’s tomb with devotees dancing on the roof.
Retreating, I walk backwards for twenty paces

so as not to turn my back, so as not to disrespect.
You are standing by the sink. I reach out and touch
your hip, and you look back at me across your body.

There’s a draft in the house, thin and fluttering.
My eyes find your center and hold there best they can.
Steady now. When Moses asked, as a lover might,

to see God’s presence, he was told, you can see my back.
Come up behind me. See through my eyes.
You will see tails disappearing around corners.


Phillip Buller. Looking Back (detail), 1999. Pastel on paper. 26 x 19 in.



Joshua Boettiger lives in Ashland, Oregon. His work has appeared in B O D Y, Parabola, Dream Pop, and elsewhere. A contributing author to the anthology Neither Here Nor There: The Many Voices of Liminality (Lutterworth), he is also a rabbi. 


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