For Alain

On the beach and the beach in Chicago means a more urban situation than I’ve ever
held two children played in sand or I dreamt I was in Malden, seeing what Malden
was, to feel there. I was overweight and swimming in my body. There were other
children in the neighborhood I spent time with each day. We would go in a pack to
the corner store to buy candy. My favorites were a goop I squeezed from a tube and
pastel yellow and blue droplets in a grid on wax. I missed my father. I ate wax in my
impatience. We smashed dry ramen noodles with our hands while the bag was still
closed. We were sealed with the moment. Not looking down from above, not some
feet out ahead but flush with perception. In each music, a trace. My uncle owned a
photography shop near Les Cayes, where he developed film and made shirts and mugs
with people’s faces on them. When he shot himself, no one explained why someone
might do that. Where does anyone get their inspiration? In writer’s block, deep mind
tries to keep surface mind safe, which creates a mutating form of hunger. Something
around the corner. The changeable velocities of thought break barrier. I will not run
until it’s time. My uncle’s mother, the day he died, had heard of his male lover. My
uncle and his wife had just married. They’d conceived a child. My uncle transferred
his remaining funds into his eldest son’s bank account. The present moment can be
your mother, whether or not your mother was trying to hurt you. In Malden, on the
hood of Bob’s car out in front of the house, the phenomenon of clouds moved me.
Decades later, in front of a mirror, I see my body for the first time. A tension behind
my eyes passes, as if my reflection had been made of clay and someone pushed it
into a shape I could see and understand.

Copyright © 2020 Anaïs Duplan. This poem originally appeared in the Yale Review. Used with the permission of the author.