Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2015  v14n1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Poem on My 60th Birthday

Now that I’m sixty, I want to be
everywhere at once in a single place,
a place that just comes to me
from memory—the grocery store
in Chester, the trail up Snowden,
the Old Capitol in Iowa City,
the boardwalk in Ocean Grove,
the kitchen at the Catholic Worker,
any of these places that double
as everywhere and somewhere
and just come to me out of nowhere
as I’m walking down the street
or driving my car, places that lead
to the next place and the place
after that while remaining fixed
in my head. Places I want to return to
and smoke a cigarette, pause
for a moment and gaze at the view,
live again in the very same spot,
then move along to somewhere new
that I’m not thinking about at all
but infects my memory like all
the other places, burying themselves
in my mind while I’m remembering
some place else. It’s not nostalgia
exactly, but memory released, as if
the past were the future in a way
I can’t explain except to say my soles
ignite against the ground from scuffing
on stones and cracks, so I burn
wherever I go, my body itself a flame
flickering, welding my mind to earth
with flesh, the only solder that works
in keeping me attached, at least somewhat,
uncoiling the clock with its heat,
so in looking back I’m looking ahead
to the places I’ve been from the start
and feeling my bones begin to burn
beneath my flesh with the hottest fire
my memory can stand—an invisible flame
that burns my grief like a pile of boughs
that smolder there in acrid smoke,
then floats away to the farthest place.

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