While I Wash My Face I Ask Impossible Questions of Myself and Those Who Love Me

Specks of toothpaste fleck the mirror.

A fan spins dust in the hall.

I find this is it impossible to accept

So I wait for a new starting point

As though life will begin there and then.

Do you know what I mean?

Not what I’m saying, what I mean.

Is it possible my function is to hold

All the intricate, interstitial pain

And articulate clarity?

Tie a boat to my wrist, I sprout wings.

Give me a pair of shoes, I grow fins.

Once an hour I trick myself into focus:

I look into the glass as I look through it.

When the new beginning comes, what then?

Does life suddenly reset like an Atari?

Does meaning emerge

Assertively and without invitation?

The task is to live well enough with you.

But how? How do you know what you want

If you don’t tell you? If you don’t hear you?

From Trace Evidence: Poems (Tin House, 2023) by Charif Shanahan. Copyright © 2023 by Charif Shanahan. Used with the permission of the publisher.