They could have been us
hours ago. Two figures
huddled hip to hip in their
parkas like one big foam
finger for the sky’s yearly
coughing of sparks and
spangles, these percussive
pops that stand in so often
for independence, the blank
case, the empty shell.
It took the human race
five thousand years to invent
nothing as a concept, I think,
my headlights flashing their
coupling of ooh and ahh,
their addition by subtraction,
long division into unity,
two faces to one mouth—
a numeric ideal found
faster than zero, harder
to lose. Any infant knows
the letter I, the silver look
of a mirror in white light.
They could have been us
studying the many shapes
of one hand inside another,
fleshy certainty of the body
as it tries on disappearance.
The crackle of gunpowder
through the car window,
the yellow sodium glow as
fallen angels of incandescent
ember halo their hair.
Could have been us if only
we’d dressed for the weather;
these cold desert nights,
this copper chloride blue.

–from Lungfull! #15

ps. This poem is in the current issue of Lungfull!, and has only been out for about 8 months, which borders on violating my policy for posting reprints here 12 mo. rule). But for those unfamiliar, Lungfull! is a very unique magazine in that they post early drafts of everything they include. So it’s still worth buying a copy to see how this poem came about. One of the poem/draft pairs in this issue is by John Ashbery, which is interesting — he changed about two words. Lungfull! also comes with stickers and word puzzles, weird letters to the editor, and lots of whacky visual art. It’s so different and interesting that it’s become one of my favorite few journals; I highly recommend checking it out.

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