When he appears, he looks into my eyes
With the gaze of a child missing a perfected
Will. Then, like a child, he moves suddenly—
Insisting on his own space, summoning up that

Odd power that makes us seem real to ourselves.
His life failed him. Fame, which he had in hand,
Failed him. He believed it was because he chose me.
When I catch or remember his ripped-from-pure-terror

Characters onscreen and off (murderer, father, diplomat)—
I get that he was always a version of the liability of “us.”
He comes to me alone in dreams, spinning into a glimpse
Of such blue-eyed hate it might have been love—O

I was never sure of that living kid on the lit stage,
Floating now into the twentieth year of his death.

Copyright © 2021 by Carol Muske-Dukes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 12, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.