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You Could, and: Other People, and: Forgiveness Poem
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You Could

I stood in the middle of my kitchen eating butter.
It was eleven AM on an overcast morning.
I was wearing an undershirt
and pajama bottoms. I don't make
a habit of this—I'd never done it before.
It wasn't a whole stick, though a good
half inch. Popped it in and let it melt
into the flesh under my tongue, the place
where you'd insert nitroglycerin if that's
what you needed. I won't describe the taste—
you'll have to try it for yourself.

Perhaps when you've found yourself
thinking about goals, that would be
a good time to let some butter
have a ride on your tongue.
My father wanted to retire by forty
and we all heard that bomb ticking.
Each night before heading to bed, as he
stood at the stove triple-checking the burners,
he could have tried some. Hotel Bar,
lightly salted, I believe my mother bought,
but the brand doesn't matter—
they never need to advertise.

You could stick a thumb in a bowl
of icing, scarf a pie with no hands
like a wolf—whatever pulls you in from
or shoves you out on the ledge you might

need to come in from or go out on.
You don't have to climb Everest—
unless you find yourself in front of it and can't
come away. Unless something's calling you
to do something your friends wouldn't
understand in a million years.

I don't understand butter.
I know it comes from cows, who
have given so much for so long.
But it's a person I picture, the first to try it.
Others in the tribe discarded
the floating globules, but this one
opted to taste the world, the same world
that has us so worried and confused.
Maybe you have heart trouble—you could
still, just once, do it

and write it down: Today was overcast.
I stayed in my pajamas just because. Oh,
and I ate butter—incredible! Long after
you died they could find your journal
and say, "This one lived!" or "What an idiot!"
No matter. You don't have to fly to Paris
for chocolate—though you could—and you
definitely don't need to retire and attend
baseball games in every major-league stadium.
Instead you could devote yourself to mastering
the dance sequence in Michael Jackson's "Thriller,"
which is what my UPS driver has done.
What a performance Arnie puts on,
to a beat in his iPod only he can hear.

Other People

Once I executed an impressive escape
from my bicycle. I was speeding downhill
when the front brake locked, vaulting me
over the handlebars and in one
of those moments of grace or luck I hit
the blacktop in full stride. Jogging to a stop
I watched my bike slide by. "Holy shit,"
said George Eggert, my lone witness.
George was skinny, awkward, left-handed—
though not really any-handed if you
know what I mean—with enough freckles
for ten people. In our town your reputation,
if you were male, consisted of your athletic prowess
and little else. I played varsity everything,
and this stunt only added to my status
in the eyes of George, who kept repeating,
"I can't fucking believe you."

What I didn't know for a long time
was that George played piano. I heard
him one day after high school while walking
past his clapboard house, a dozen
ivy-choked steps above Harbor Avenue.
He was playing in the front room,
playing jazz, the blues, playing
with such power neighbors had gathered
in the street to listen. Then he started singing—
a booming voice I didn't recognize.
Sometimes discovering other people
is like touching down on a new planet—
at first, you're not even sure
if you can breathe the air.

The other thing I didn't know about was Lucy.
Lucy Cassidy, whose deep feminine laugh
gave any male in the vicinity an instant hard-on.
Lucy would come to school in a skirt suit
and pumps, her hair in a bun; other times
in a T-shirt and...

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