Sunday, 14 August 2022

American Life in Poetry: Multiple Man: Guest-starring me & You

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

There is a bit of slapstick comedy in this poem of conundrums.

In “Multiple Man: Guest-starring me & You,” Gary Jackson knows that he is playing a game with perception — is the “you” himself or someone else — perhaps a past lover?

But in the end, it does not matter, because the sense of loneliness and the hunger for companionship at the core of this poem are absolutely clear.

“You left me,” he says, with a hint of melodrama. But in the end, he reminds us that sometimes the perceived antidote for our need (our “dearth”) can be catastrophic (“the flood”).

Multiple Man: Guest-starring me & You
By Gary Jackson

Every night I sleep on alternate

sides of the bed, as if to duplicate
sleeping with you. If

I’m fast enough, I’m the warmth
of my own body beside me, reach

out and touch myself. Breach
the blue of my bones, breath in my own ear.

You left me. Lying here,
I left you to be with me.

Someone asks if your body
was worth trading for mine.

My sin was always pride.
Did you want a man who sleeps

with himself to keep
the bed warm? I need you like the earth

needed the flood after dearth.

American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2021 by Gary Jackson, “Multiple Man: Guest-starring me & You” from origin story (University of New Mexico Press, 2021). Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

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