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By sam sax

sometimes i wonder what happens to people’s hands when they disappear
in their pockets. of course, my rational brain knows they go on being hands
but there’s still the question. i wonder if object permanence isn’t the biggest
trick of them all, a scam, a way to ground the brain in its thin bath of liquid

don’t worry, when you close your eyes the world goes on being the world, that dark
clearing cleaving open in your skull. don’t worry, existence is a technology
like everything else, it can be broken & written down in an easier alphabet

then the thin membrane peels back & all your nerve endings start speaking
at once. i came out to my mother over text, each letter wept into place.
she erased that message & it never existed, my belief in objects disappearing.

every day the newspaper reads me death, every day bullets make their grand
entrances & exits, every day another friend takes his narrative in his own hands
& answers an old question. i’m left cursing paper, pulp emissary of loss,
messenger carved from the heart of tree, each letter the bearer of bad tidings.

of course, my rational brain knows he is dead & will always be dead, but still
there is the question, language being a technology like everything else. i have
to wonder what happens if instead i read his story backwards, if it begins
with a flag at half mast making the noise a flag makes without wind & then
continues with his casket rising out of the ground. if it ends how all stories
end—an infant climbing into its mother, animals throwing themselves back
in the ocean




Listen as sam sax reads "impermanence."

Added: Thursday, November 29, 2018  /  From "Bury It," (Wesleyan Poetry Series, 2017). Used with permission.
sam sax
Photo by Hieu Mihn Nguyen.

sam sax is a queer, jewish, writer & educator. He is the author of Madness, winner of The National Poetry Series, and Bury It (Wesleyan Poetry Series, 2017), winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. He’s the poetry editor at BOAAT Press, a 2018 Ruth Lilly Fellow from The Poetry Foundation & a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.

Other poems by this author