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ISSUE:  Spring 1990
The abrupt presentment of illness,
the sudden invasion of the foreign:
your wife has been sick, your daughters
sick, and all at once while listening

to a lecture you grow aware of some new
thing within you, something not there
a moment ago. The room fades, the speaker’s
voice grows silent, and your whole body

turns inward to discover the intruder,
as you sort through yourself like
searching for a tick on a shaggy dog.
The awareness of a burglar, the intrusion

of a trespasser, a sneeze, a scratchy
feeling in the chest: like being alone
in a house at night, sitting upstairs
reading before the fire and downstairs

there is a sudden noise, a fork falling
to the floor in the kitchen, and every
pore turns to listen, every hair bends
to determine the extent of the invasion.

But this awareness of trespass is also
the reaction to the process of aging—
the pulled muscle, the pain where all was well,
stiffness in the joints, then the diseases,

the inevitable failings, while each daily
humiliation brings with it the sense of how
life used to be: what your feet felt like
before they hurt, what your eyes saw like

before they needed glasses. By itself each
intruder seems small. There’s room enough,
you say, as you move your books upstairs.
Then the doorbell rings again and strange cars

fill the driveway, and someone is pounding
at the back, and soon your visitors crowd
the kitchen, invade the downstairs rooms.
Each is starving and still they keep coming.

Soon the rooms are packed, the couches creaking,
then a glass breaks, a chair breaks,
the food is all eaten, the dancing begins,
strange laughter erupts from the bedroom.

Steadily, you are pushed toward the door—
as nobody said hello, neither do they say
au revoir—and soon you are outside, holding
a snapshot of your house as it once was,

before your guests created its present
delapidation. Someone shouts from a window:
Get lost, get moving! So you set off, hardly
seeing your path as you focus on the picture:

the slate roof, the red brick. And there you are
waving from a window. How handsome you look.
Remember that time? A parade of bright mornings,
waking in a house you thought was yours forever.


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