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Ben Lerner
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from Angle of Yaw


HE HAD ENOUGH RESPECT FOR PAINTING
to quit. Enough respect for quitting to paint. Enough respect for the figure to abstract. For abstraction to hint at the breast. For the breast to ask the model to leave. But I live here, says the model. And I respect that, says the painter. But I have enough respect for respect to insist. For insistence to turn the other cheek. For the other cheek to turn the other cheek. Hence I appear to be shaking my head No.

 

THE AIRCRAFT ROTATES about its longitudinal axis, shifting the equinoxes slowly west. Our system of measure is anchored by the apparent daily motion of stars that no longer exist. When the reader comes to, the writer hits him again. Just in case God isn’t dead, our astronauts carry side arms. This is not your captain speaking, thinks the captain. A magnetic field reversal turns our fire friendly. Fleeing populations leave their bread unleavened, their lines unbroken.

 

THE ROSE has a minutely serrate margin, like a poem. There ends analogy. A dying process. At the border of the cornea and sclera, a momentary wavering. Excluded from beatific vision, but not condemned to further punishment. In the dream she told me she felt fine. Like dust. To what shall we liken analogy, if not to hypermetropia. These carpets are the color of migraine. Note to self: change your life. I assume the palmate antlers of hoofed mammals have so often been likened to candelabra I’m not even going to try. Boy, you got trouble in your head. Every time, he says, breasts are described in the poems of men, a woman undergoes mastectomy. I said he says to gain some credibility, which is a privileged form of distance. This one goes out to my paternal Grandma Elsie, short for Elsewhere, whom I never met. This one goes out to Grandma Rosie, who couldn’t remember her first cancer by the time she died of being ready. Her ashes are on a shelf in Cambridge. Awaiting scattering. Note to self: don’t publish this. Besides the half-dead and their families, everybody in the home was from the Indies. Carpets the color of. We administered music and morphine. For ninety-four years, she had performed her gender admirably. Anyway, this isn’t a time or a place. But the day she died some punk nearly hit me with his bike, parked it, and got all in my face. Boy, you got trouble in your head. I started to cry. Like a woman, he said. As if to give me strength.

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