Paul Guest

On Being Asked Who the You Is in My Poems

You are always eighteen or married

or both, carrying inside you

a surgeon or a singer growing

away from you like a little cloud,

and you have just escaped

from the leprosarium hidden

beyond the horizon’s lead smudge,

slinking through damp kudzu

to rap at my window

in the slowly sprawling darkness,

in the sodden green glow

of these two nights, mine

and yours.  Or you’ve retired

from a secret life,

the oath sworn upon your bleeding thumb

now broken.  The petal,

a curled pink that fell

and boiled in the black mirror of my coffee,

for a moment today was you

just as you were the bone of a thin girl’s hip

swimming beneath her

skin like a fish.

Limbless girl

bowling via surrogate

while a jukebox ate through change,

your smile

once broke the earth open like a bone

ribboned with silk red

marrow.  In the smoke rank air

all the world did

was turn and turning

away I began to keep your secrets like my own.


“On Being Asked Who the You Is in My Poems” first appeared in Blue Mesa Review.