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I'm already screwing up the end of the poem
with a hopeful form of forgetfulness.
Let me confess to you that I plan a perfect poem,
one written during the historical period.
Now this was a period I don't remember
and now another is coming to meet it.
This may fuck up the perfect poem I admit
I'd already planned a kind of mass for.
If I love one of the poems I love the other
no matter what period it is
but it's impossible—two of them?
The incredible speed with which these fade.
I'm reminded of other harmonious masses
and the brevity of that occupation.
Failing that, a barely restrained desire
to begin a poem whose spirit has disappeared.
They hurt each other, these poems,
every minute they celebrate their nuptials
in this period I'd forgotten about,
clearer now than before—it's autumn,
lightly at first and then pressing down
between the other two nearest seasons.
Which one is the stronger no one can say
but if it's this poem then I've fucked up.
I forgot to begin it except in the usual ways,
I didn't do anything except face the west
while it and the others passed by
exchanging whatever coordinates.
These feelings of shame caused them
to look out on the borders and beaches
where they'll be reunited with time.
It won't be too late for them
even if I don't do anything.
I've gone on a little too long already but
I wanted to tell you how boring it is
to face the sea in autumn
and address threats to the other seasons
in which the poems are refined and I'm forgotten.
I'd rather it were the other way around.
Under the trees, in the fog, the place
where the poem ceases to be is life.
Here comes the prose they warned us we'd become.
Geoffrey G. O’Brien is the author of four books of poems, most recently People on Sunday. He is an Associate Professor in the English Department at UC Berkeley and also teaches for the Prison University Project at San Quentin State Prison.
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