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  • Having Given Up
  • Jeff Oaks (bio)

Having given up salt, I took up pepper. Having given up sugar, I took up sadness again like an old coat filled with stones. Having given up on losing weight, I took up getting lost. Having given up on desire, I took up with strangers who were grateful to be touched. Having given up on my fellow citizens, I took up a disappointment I'm finding hard to swallow. Having given up speaking, I took up black ink, square brushes, thick white paper. I have taken up the spill, I mean, having given up the signature. Having given up on my name, I took up a middle-aged and respectful invisibility. Or do I mean I entered it? I'm not sure, having given up caring. Having given up the joy of being a child of the living, I have taken up the responsibility of being a child of the dead. Having given up on beauty, I took up a collection of baseball caps. "What lips my lips have kissed" I've given up ever knowing again, but I have taken up cup after cup of water by moonlight. I have given up intention and taken up the scribble, acknowledging the accidents of my birth. I have given up the jumpy red fox of youth and taken up with the quiet black dog who snores. I will not give up that dog, even to you, Death. Some days he is all I owe to the earth. I have given up my death to see where else I might be taken. [End Page 101]

Jeff Oaks

Jeff Oaks has published essays in Creative Nonfiction, Kenyon Review Online, Tupelo Quarterly, and At Length, as well as in the anthologies Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction, and My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them. He teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh.