Here are a bunch of bits from a file titled "Unfinished," unopened since 2009 (until just now).
WAITING FOR SOMETHING ONCE
I read an index of first lines. Still the “way in” eludes me.
Why do I feel that I can picture, like a memory, the moment my father quit smoking? My mother was pregnant. He was standing in the snow.
My friend’s wife is having twins. But you’re just a kid, I thought, though he’s older than me.
Once my medical history was “unremarkable”—not just not remarkable, but unable to be remarked upon. Now my heart skitters up at the littlest thing: footfall downstairs. Raccoon in a tree.
Now I’m approaching the decade when I’ll find out if I have my mother’s debilitating disease. My feelings about this are unfeelings. I don’t allow myself to have them. What is she eliding to spare me? Not the pain, at least.
Everything that happens will seem like the first sign. At a party, I keep hearing my name—or was it just “at least a,” as in, I think about smoking at least a hundred times a day. On the street, the bus, I recognize everyone.
In the slow-motion chase scene, when the cheetah finally bites into the antelope’s neck, it’s seductive, even erotic—she goes down so gently. The children all gasp: It’s the cute & the sublime mixed up on one screen. They don’t know who to root for, nature as a whole or the baby animal?
[I wrote this bit after seeing that nature documentary put out by Disney.]
***He is nonplussed
when I say probably we’re living in a simulation—
someone did the math.
But that’s exactly how he would act,
if he were a projection of a conscious being.
The Harvard Museum of Natural History
dematerializes behind me; the sidewalk
appears, the grass unseasonably green.
Do grasshoppers really have butterfly wings?
Or is this an embellished version
of the world as it was? Unreliable memory …
The museum is boring
[As good a place to end as any. I'm 99% sure I was trying to be funny. Note to self: Never try to be funny in a poem.]
[I also found this very old exercise-type poem I have no recollection of writing in which every line ends with the word "fish." D.H. Lawrence and I really are kindred spirits!]
He didn’t want to be the fish
so much as the shadow beneath the fish.
Shadowing the fish.
Learning from the fish
what it’s like to be a fish,
or something like a fish:
a one-dimensional fish,
an epiphenomenal fish.
He had gone to the pond to look at the fish
and found that he could not stop looking at the fish.
There was something very powerful about the fish.
Especially this particular fish—
the leader of the fish.
It possessed a power that the other fish
did not, and that he did not, not being a fish.
He would never be a fish,
could never even hope to be the shadow of a fish,
much less this most powerful fish.
He was practically the opposite of fish:
it felt that way, standing there above the fish
and looking down at them the way one looks at fish.
Embodiment of everything that isn’t fish.
No overlap or intersection between him and fish.
As black to white, as death to life, him to fish.
And in this way, in awe of the fish,
humbled before the fish,
transformed by the fish,
destroyed by the fish,