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I dream I am a magician. I pull silk scarves 

from my mouth, an endless knotted rope. Except they aren’t scarves,

but organs, the vessels that hold my life together. You are weighing them

and you don’t like what you find.

There we dug our sticks 

into the dirt we knew 

in winter as a drift of snow

sifting into our dreams 

when we were sick.  

Two of us to a bed, and father in his study, 

growing smarter by the hour.

As he picks at the plastic wrap, he can’t help wondering for the umpteenth time: “How in the world has his life come to this?” After college, after all those low-to-the-ground, kick-back-on-the-sofa years spent slurping Schnapps and canned ravioli in their dank, off-campus apartment, the four friends returned to where they’d come from...

I took a course with Carolyn based on her anthology, Against Forgetting: the Poetry of Witness. Carolyn was the first teacher I had to highlight the political and ethical implications of poetry, how language cannot be “neutral.”  She introduced us to Brecht and Celan. We began in that class to recognize our responsibilities, the weight, of what a poet can — Carolyn would say must — do.

"No" was his reply. He could have lied, but he let it slip through his teeth. With the word "no," he carried within himself the weight of the truth he himself had ignored for years. "No" was not the answer he wished he had given. All right, pretend it was never inside his mouth. If he had said something else instead, he would now be lying in his bed with a clear conscience.

one of these days has turned

into I wish I would have

reading someone else’s words

rather than writing my own

planning for tomorrow knowing

that day will be even shorter 

than today

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