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XVI

The early bird might get the worm, but the early person

mostly just has to sit around and wait for everyone else to show up.

So much for pithy ideas about personal betterment. People

have always been like this, I’m certain, waking up one day

feeling a little different (6% Neanderthal, maybe), and then wondering

if this means it’s the end of something or the beginning of something.

I’m better now, this morning, not realizing I’d been worse,

a light cold. So maybe this is the worse to some future better? The idea

of becoming enters, and so then we’re all becoming.

In the movie The In-Laws, there’s this scene where the fathers of the bride

and groom are running through gunfire at an airport, and the

secret-agent dad calls out to the common-man dad, “Serpentine!

Serpentine!” while zigzagging. For some reason that’s stuck with me more

than most anything else from my youth. It felt like good advice,

as the unknown is merciless, and so of course, the common-man dad

runs back to his starting place and begins again, running through the bullets

a second time, getting it right. Repetition is how we learn things,

as Natalie and Eliot both are asking me for the same story over and over,

until it starts to feel to me as if there’s no other story than this one.

When did I become what I’ve become, then, as it always seems

nothing’s changing? “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy

making other plans,” as John Lennon had it, and I stood

in front of the Dakota in the cold, on the anniversary of his murder.

I thought I was paying attention. Maybe I should have paid something else

then. Some more subtle division, as three years after writing this

I’m looking back at it: it’s 2012 now, we’ve moved across town, after

our neighbor, Matt, tried to corner Robin in our basement while I

was out of town. There’s a question in that, and the answer comes

when you stop asking the question. We sit around, and windows

are what we talk about, because we’re surrounded by windows. Life’s

a game of Hide & Seek, they say, and maybe you’ll be a really good hider.

from In A LandscapeFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2014
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Published in John Gallaher Poems

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