Amused when she asks, is your wife Jewish? and, 
because it's easier, because I don't 
want to think, I answer yes. It's the first time. 
Later, a pushy man wants to know my 
son's birthday. Confused, I make him younger 
and the shift of dates feels so natural

I let it stand. Then it's happening with family 
names, with where I work, how long, with 
whom—minor changes in my vita, small alterations, 
other lives, one variant for this person, 
another for that, as though I were picking out 
ballpoint pens or books, rummaging for

keep-sakes to give away, a different self to 
each, each time. Months pass before I 
catch on too and admit I've done what I did out of 
caution, an attempt to screen the self, 
erase the scent, obscure the trail with a series 
of dead-ends until no one could thread

a way ahead through those dense thickets back to 
me, reeking of fear. what did I think I 
had worth hiding and who was I trying to deceive? 
Tell me: surrounded by those casual lies 
fabricating with disarming aplomb, why didn't I ask 
whose escape I imagined I was fashioning?

From Time As Distance by Mark Halperin, published by New Issues Poetry and Prose. Copyright © 2001 by Mark Halperin. Used with permission. All rights reserved.