Sometimes in a Public Place
sitting in a crowd when no one’s looking,
faces facing ahead as if driving,
the poet rarely glancing up from her latest volume;
or while stepping out to smoke
before book-buying, the unnerving asking-her-to-sign,
when all I have to bend my skin to tremors
are eyes behind windshields passing on Capitol St.
(they condescend before forgetting me at the light);
or later, meeting a friend’s friend (what
could go wrong with anxieties like these?)—
fear fumbles static fingers through my hair.
I’m there, staring at empty space that keeps me safest:
words come like nailing a picture
into the opening where a door should be.
“How Can One Disguise the Fact That the Entire World Is Somewhat Sad and Lonely?”
—Clarice Lispector, The Hour of the Star
Middle-aged woman a booth away in the pizzeria
stares at her phone—Facebook blue of bourbon flames.
She reads, then talks with her hands to the waitress.
The room smells of burnt pork & mop water.
I look around, & everyone here seems isolated:
trudging the buffet line, slinking by counters,
soda machines, heading for the register to pay.
People resemble zoo-caged pandas: never touch,
rarely interact. Am I more alone for watching?
What are these words if not pleas for help
from the expanding universe? Nearby:
ding of an alert on someone else’s phone.
It repeats: promises of messages adding up.
Times like this, I’d smash the world to save it.
Ace Boggess is author of four books of poetry, most recently I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So (Unsolicited Press, 2018) and Ultra Deep Field (Brick Road, 2017), as well as two novels. His poems have appeared in Harvard Review, Notre Dame Review, cream city review, Rattle, River Styx, and other journals. He received a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and also spent five years in a West Virginia prison.
Artwork by: Molly McGrane