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Poetry

Once while I was walking, a man called out to me.
He was slender, sitting on the grass with a racing
bike beside him. He said, Would you believe a year ago

I weighed three hundred pounds? I shook my head,
and he said, Nobody else will believe me either.
His body showed at once the whole of his labors

and none. He was compelled to tell
what had already been inscribed in flesh,
to repeatedly salute not what he once was

nor what he’d become but the fact, the choice,
the very moment and infinite moments
of change itself. Could no one return

this salute? What if he’d gotten up off the grass,
stepped out on the path and touched me
on the shoulder? What if we’d said vows,

shed clothing, faced each other in the dark—
could I have believed him then? Would he
have believed my believing? Or what if I’d gone

straight home, made coffee, started writing,
conjecturing and researching and crafting
till I’d become the great artist he needed?

Eighteen years have passed, and inside me
the echo of his bewilderment only deepens.
I want to say, believe me, I too

am a stranger. I too am searching for one
who can speak my real name. I too
have taken to the streets.


The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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