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My Antonia

ISSUE:  Autumn 2003

At heart, we’re all pets, every one of us the soft fossil print
of utter devotion, a dog, say, or the dog in a story about a dog,
or the story of a dog locked in inside a memory of a dog—

paws pressed to the chest—first there’s the trick of unconditional
love, and then the ink of things spills over the white of things.
We tease ourselves with possibility because we can’t help

counting the stones and counting the days and counting
the heartbeats and the widening spaces between. It’s okay.
Some days you can count on the counting.

Doesn’t matter how many times you climb,
you never trust the rungs, not once, not ever, how could you?
And still you climb and fall, climb and fall—

like a dumbstruck village idiot—goofy smile, sad eyes,
addled heart and a pocket full of ripe blackberries
someone handed you or pilfered straight

from the street market, those tiny, plump-faced gods
dyeing your tongue blue and sweet. It’s all praise of a kind—
belief, disbelief, sobbing, loving, the small clear charities.

One day you hear music, your leg starts thumping
and you let go of the universe, it spins off into wherever
the universe goes when you stop thinking about it,

stop fixing it to your thoughts—and the sun is so bright
and the air so clear you dive down into it while holding
someone’s hand in your mouth, my hand, mortise and tenon,

tongue and groove. Here, let me stroke those ears again.
Let me smooth your flanks, that silk, with my clumsy fingers.
In our country the only currency, my best girl, is longing.


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