the rigorous m

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Archive for October, 2012

poetry: Based on a Book of the Same Title

Posted by rigorousm on October 21, 2012

Based on a Book of the Same Title

By definition of vicious infinite regression
I don’t like to talk to philosophy majors.
They have found the truth and the truth is

that there isn’t one, so on Saturdays they
wear overalls and stare at their reflections
and try to guess whose childhood was worse,

but in the end they realize they all share
the same dream of having a reason
to join the Witness Protection Program,

which disappoints at least one person, who
thought his dream was so uniquely his.
Last night I got a fortune cookie that said

I don’t get along with basically anyone,
and from the back I learned the Chinese word
for grape: putao, and it made me wonder how each

informs the other. To find out, turn to page 117.
I wonder how much longer I can live here
before I do something irresponsible like

meet a teenage boy on a Ferris wheel in 1941
or lay in the street and watch the stoplights
change from green to yellow or sit on a porch

swing at dusk and listen to Leaves of Grass
read by someone who has just worked all day
with his hands. Already on page 56 I love you

so much I just want to steal your clothes
when you’re asleep and wash them. I want
us to communicate telepathically until I am old

and suffering from dementia and can’t even
remember I know how to play piano until
a nurse tells me I do and still I’ll deny it

until she puts my hands on the keys and then
there’ll be Chopin so quickly, as the light
spills in the leaded windows and the lilies

lean in closer. By definition of vicious
infinite regression I am in front of a mirror
holding a copy of the movie based on the book

you wrote based on the parts of our life
together that I no longer remember and
looking back at me is a woman holding

a movie based on a book based on her life
and she wonders if the woman she sees
wants to die as much as she does. I keep

staring at this bruise on my leg and drawing
a blank. Last night when you called I told you
I was happy, which was true, but thinking ahead

I could be unhappy, too, if that’s what you
wanted. I could be any of a lot of things:
a wrist, a ghost, a harbor, a rope. I could

be the one who doesn’t know the language.
I could be the reason they take you first.
I could be the last person to see you alive.

— Leigh Stein, “Based on a Book of the Same Title”


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