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The bullet train stops briefly to get the freshest meat from the vendors
it carries a returning army and the grown children are hungry
they wave shirts out the windows
the hero is hungover and refuses to be photographed
history knows his face anyway
he’s eighteen his gelled hair is roughed up
and his beard’s a month old
he’s so pretty he could be in a war movie
if I stop now and write not another word
will you get him a cool washcloth
ignore him or be him
remember I need you to finish this
without you I am as lonely as a split melon
covered in flies at a train station
or saturated in lead paint in Renaissance art
what is this poem compared to
one of Caravaggio’s blackened torches
whose embers instigate a war
an exaggeration forgive me I am
but a poor student of art
boarding to visit my dead mother
Jane Miller is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including the National Poetry Series selection The Greater Leisures (1983), Memory at These Speeds: New and Selected Poems (1996), the book-length poem A Palace of Pearls (2005), and Who Is Trixie the Trasher? and Other Questions (Copper Canyon Press, 2018).
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Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven reminds us of the radical power of collective imagination.