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An Excerpt from YOU.

By (September 1, 2013) No Comment


—When it comes to You
there are no accidents. When it comes to you, I
am the accident. The shrink posits: why are you
not worthy of love?
He has big broad washed
up football player shoulders, he talks through

a mustache and sometimes the mustache has little
mouths and coarse mustaches on those mouths
and every single mouth says wouldn’t a little
rest feel nice, wouldn’t the day be best to sleep
and twitch and not feed yourself and not eat

and stare at the ceiling quizzically, and then
the shrink says, I-boy, what is your definition
of mercy
, and I look at every mouth in his
mustache, and every megaphone inside
those mouths, and I say unto you, mercy

is how the highway doesn’t swallow the big
rigs, mercy is the semi-automatic left to rust,
mercy is the father who totes his neurotic kiddo
to the playground and discovers the bullies
still are gorging themselves on lunch

money, mercy is the money in your pocket
you never knew laid there until the store clerk
asked for more—I say unto you, these are
the I-worlds where space is the X coordinate,
time is the Y coordinate, and then the world

says, um, string theory’s right, good luck
with the twelve dimensions
, and all that’s left
are 12 step meetings. I could tell you about
those meetings, but then I’d be breaking the law.
A man’s got to live by a code and mine is

binary. I lie in my I when I read Herodotus,
I lie in the horse spurred on by the soldier,
the hem of the councilman toga, I lie in the lies
Herodotus told, or so modernity speculates.
Lies, whores, and buildings are respected

if they live long enough, and I put my hand on
Herodotus’s bust, the marble cold in the Aegean
January, and I say to the stone, You, you, tell me
a story.
Once upon a time, I touched the shoulder
of every immigrant as each one entered the nation.

Their eyelids translucent, the pupils baffled
by the light. I leaned into their ears and told them
of the detention center, of the prisoners in their sad
jumpsuits, of the sounds the ocean makes when
the hospitals’ hypodermic needles greet the shore

in search of a better life—a sunburned derriere
and a vigorous O positive. But You know
the truth, how morning insists coffee is an elixir,
the day’s first cigarette, and enter porch-left
the person who is your hottest Doppelganger—

Joseph P. Wood is the author of four books and five chapbooks of poetry, which include YOU. (Etruscan Press, forthcoming 2015), Fold of the Map (Salmon, forthcoming 2014), and Variations on an Innocent Axis (Brooklyn Arts Press, forthcoming 2014). A new manuscript, Broken Cage, is currently a finalist for the 2013 National Poetry Series competition. His poetry and criticism have been published in Arts & Letters Daily, BOMB, Boston Review, Cincinnati Review, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Verse, among other journals. He teaches at The University of Alabama and is book review editor for Atticus Review.