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Just Now

ISSUE:  Autumn 1991
The shutter stays open on the 20th century. The last
Time I thought about anything in the past was
At breakfast. The past is the plinth upon which
The cyclamen in the reed basket are dying. 1951—
The year the earth was flat. My mother pushed me
Out from behind the curtains. They say I cried until
Intermission. Then there was the motion picture,
The camera strapped onto the fender of my father’s
Car. My mother wore the corsage and not the box
The corsage came in. And then the big develop.
The chemical bath: I was a still life under
Bright lights eating pudding. I was surrounded
By lop-eared rabbits who have since produced
A googol of themselves. The whole numbers replicate.
The skinned knee of 1958. Zero conversation at
The multiplication table. Subtracting a chair when
My sister left. In 1965 I had a beehive in a tree
In the back yard, the opposite of the sea horse
I saw in the aquarium catalogue. I am
Building a modern device of memory. There was
A lack of slack: Now the rope burns on my
Hands have healed. There was a lack of slope:
Now I’ve thirty different words for falling.
I’ve seen a copy of the original sin. The train
Of thought becomes lost in the translation. One
Tunnel too many. Just now is sooner or later,
By my clock. The girls in grammar school pulled
On pants for recess. They stood in a circle, laughing
On the blacktop. Just now, I am simply smiling
Into the camera obscura, the swerve of memory,
The mention of a name that sets me back. There is
A false courage in numbers. The ties under the train
Tracks, for example, and the train wreck and hundreds
Dead on the mountainside. Besides this, there is
The present, the souvenir being unwrapped, which
Is the gift itself, a box with nothing at all inside.


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