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Two.

PHILOSOPHER

Followed and noticed, referenced and catalogued, perception's garden posts its signs, stands in service to its acacia, its loam, its dark earth beneath the milked aspens. Reentering is justice, recompense, travelers asleep with their conclusions. Aesthetics of want and labor, error and hope, wish and indifference face a more distant north. You bear translations of snow, recite prophecies of smoke, exhale all visible means of navigation between bright gestures. Where is your sign and your treason, your cape and your betrayal, your measure, ancient and smoother than truth? Day-blind, sleep-neared, tucked in fog, you recede as myth of birds' tender absence.

   THE STAGGERING MAN

   A staggering man is carrying a salad across the street.

   This is not the first line of a word problem about velocity or
      distance.

   I am waiting for him to cross and we have locked eyes.

   He is grimacing or smiling at me. I am smiling back.

   This man has a disorder that makes his case singular. It has a name
      and prognosis.
   He is one of a galaxy of staggering men whose provocation is
      unclear.

   I have seen them stagger in other arenas, and I have ignored their
      staggering in moments
   of disregard.

   The staggering man is finally across.

   My pen is out of ink, and I am writing with a crayon I found inside
      the seat, turquoise I
   would say, but Indian blue its appellation, perhaps about the
      ocean.

   I haven't written so many poems since my twentieth year when my
      professor said that he
   doubted a girl with my large intelligence but emotional restraint
      could write a single word

   It sounds as if he was unkind, but his was a kindness to me, a
      mirror to hold up to my
   shadows.

   The staggering man has receded.

   The afternoon is brilliant with invented weather and sky-framing
      clouds. Several pigeons
   are harassing a dove, which one of my students has told me is just
      a smaller, dumber pigeon.

   How are you today, my dear? Are you being viewed by someone who
      locks eyes with
   you and loves you? Have you read my parable and noticed its small
      devices?

   Will you judge me with a deeper love than I could offer the
      staggerers and plaintiffs
   earlier in my years and see how I see your eyes in their reasons?

MAXINE CHERNOFF is the author of 13 books of poetry, most recently Without (Shearsman). In January of this year she was a Visiting Scholar at Exeter University in England.

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Author:Chernoff, Maxine
Publication:The Brooklyn Rail
Article Type:Poem
Date:Mar 1, 2013
Words:413
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