—after cummings and Spinoza
 
We do not know what a body can do
how when she crossed the street
 
asking you for a dollar so she could
get something to eat, you fished in your
 
pocket and peeled a twenty from a sheaf
of bills saying: This is all I have.
 
Bless you. You have a good night she said
and took your hand in both of hers before
 
drifting off into an unconscious city, the wind
eddying in doorways of vacant buildings.
 
We do not know the bottom of surrender,
swirling our fingertips in an oily reflection:
 
hope and courage are rolls of unused tickets
bequeathed to unsuspecting children as we leave
 
the fair. She wore a dress striped black and white
as if darkness were imprisoned, or light—impossible
 
to tell which caused effect, effect or cause, her body
and mind knifing one kinesis, her coagulated thought
 
and infinite blood inhabiting the same locus of illusion
as she crossed the empty street. We were dreaming
 
with our eyes open, confabulating our nimble
inadequate ideas while strolling after sushi
 
back to campus. Her arms were bare, the air
still warm enough to empathize without caring
 
though the season was turning, about to betray itself:
first, the leaves, then snow, giving for once a soft
 
white damn. Then birds vanishing into clouds,
taking our naïve assumptions with them.
 
 

Partridge Boswell

This year’s recipient of the Edna St. Vincent Millay Poetry Prize for his poem “Flying home after the protest,” Partridge Boswell is the author of Some Far Country, winner of the Grolier Poetry Prize. Co-founder of Bookstock literary festival and the poetry/music group Los Lorcas Trio, he teaches at Burlington Writers Workshop.

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