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The double.

A man walks by with a loaf of bread on his shoulder.

Am I then going to write about my double?

i am as quiet as the frail green recently promoted from her cell of frosts


I'm just your size and I'm right beside you. When the crows whirl upward in widening jeers I'm taking potshots at them or speaking with them in their own cracked tongue while you copy down the meaningless inscriptions their wings make on the heavy sky to decipher later and prophesy at parties.

Sometimes I wear your garments and exulting bare-assed ply her ears with suggestions, clap him on his shoulder or go about your business with all seriousness and socks that almost match.

I'm sweet as all sin, so close to the bone: a meat most prized by jackals and other businessmen. You would boil yourself for hours and still I wouldn't soften, slip out and infesting a herd of swine rush them headlong into the sea. I'm not that kind.

I cleave to you as the pale green to the new grass which is sprinkled with fragments of fish and bread, as dryness to a desert being pounded by a shower, as darkness to a mountain of a hole, a hole entire cities might inhabit if they had a mind, a dark that might protect us when the scripture of those black wings catches fire.


I am your spiritual body. I envelop you loosely like lousy cellophane that can't quite keep a seal, a scent or odor in or out. And when you hunker down and cradle the corolla of an early crocus in your begging palms, I keep you thinking of the fire over on Flora, two adults and a child, those pale green sepals, no phone, no heat, illegal electric, how yellow those petals, why it burst out by the front door, why the rear was barred and blocked by a bureau, how white the anthers, the windows nailed. I keep you thinking of the flower you cup like a match, to keep that first flame going, and from going too far. But fingers are made with spaces in between, and things have a way of slipping out.

Did they find a way out?


No, you were the one who threw your voice, said: "I am your spiritual body," as if starlight rusting in a well were not tangible, dripping from hands, were not the greater part of what we know of stars. No callipers could measure my excess from your flesh.

So let's say the woman beside you in the bed wakes up and excitedly tells you how she exited her body in a chorus of crackling leaves and tried to enter the breathing tabernacle, your sleeping chest, when a malignancy, a coiled shadow in wait there started, and shuddering she fled back to her lazy limbs stretched out and waiting, the lover called the self. Now, which of these four beings - you, her, somnambulist, serpent - was I?

I could be the light, you will admit, that threads the water of a well you are yet to uncover.


When you think it's you that's making love to her, breathe deep, why don't you sit down, it's really me, me, I'm the one who puts the glowing ember in the ashes of her palms and blows the fire up. And when the flames begin to feather the lucent curtains of her eyes, I sit beneath the sill, warm myself and wait for the flame to ignite.

That's when our breathing hits the switches, hurtles through the outer yards and onto the plains. The tracks sweep south in a slow curve. The engineer yells to the fireman. The fireman watches the engineer yelling. Although the wind takes scissors to the words, he makes them out, glances back at the shadow show, the windows of the sleepers, the lovers touching within:

paper dolls who must suspect a conflagration drives them.


I could be a size you haven't yet been, a little bit larger, skinnier, harder to find pants for, or shoes that fit, less tightly knit. In fact, scattered as all hell, intentionally, like found stones, sand dollars, diminutive clay statues, an ivory netsuke of a man hauling on his bent back a mask big as his whole body - all exquisitely positioned in a semblance of chaos on a dusty deal dresser.

That's me, baby, or maybe it's you, I get my times mixed up, before you know it your heart ceases and there I am, shaking it like a stopped watch or simply staring at it in my hand like the Infant at the sphere, so when the one beside you opens her eyes on the frost-burnt panes of March, she wakes to me, the heft and shape of order and disorder, and we go out shopping for another timepiece while you convalesce, get yourself together, try

to assuage the fires furiously quiet where your heart used to be.


I'm shaking you awake and you, giving me all kinds of grief, with your right hand resting on the warm density of her hip, your muscles, bones, and joints almost deliquescent in that tiny lake of heat, your eyes resistant to the bit of light I'm bringing you. Come on, she'll still be there, you can start the same dream over when you shut your eyes again.

Yes, her body was a hill and out of the hill flowed seven streams filled with boulders of gold and winking gems over which the most translucent liquid ran, or some such drivel, when a dog began to drink from the smallest of the streams and the largest ran as red as the inside of his mouth. You approached him cautiously but he clamped his jaws around your hand and began to shake you playfully from side to side, crushing bones as if they were twigs.

That animal was me. I simply wanted to point out how the moon is stuck there in those budding branches, how the orb is neatly cloven in two.

Now go on back to sleep and leave me out of it this time.


It's Winter still and the unexpected snowfall intensifies the blue of the sky, sets it humming like cut glass around chimneys, in still brittle branches whose buds swell anyway, as if prescient, in the space between the jawing of two crows. You've decided I don't exist, which is fine. I needed a vacation anyway, the weight of my invention is too much to bear alone, this double vision dizzies, besides, the climate doesn't suit me, these stifling houses, the obsession with hats, gloves, jackets, boots to seal the body from the gentle thrashing of the cold. I'll scratch out a hole in the tundra of your torso, yes, exactly there, one auricle should do, now go about your business. The cold is bracing here, it makes my inner warmth more precious to me.

Get away! I'm curled up for a reason here, to keep communion with the buds curved skyward like tiny incisors which almost grin at the solitary modulations of blue.
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Author:Cox, Nathan H.
Publication:Chicago Review
Date:Jun 22, 1991
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