I emerge whenever he confuses the lamp for a moon.
It is then he thinks of fine bindings in ordered athenaeums.
I own his face, but he washes and spends too little time
behind his ears. He sees me in the mirror behind thick clouds
of shaving cream then suddenly believes in ghosts.
His other selves are murals in the cave of his mind.
They are speechless yet large. They steer his wishes
like summer rain and amplify his terrors like newscasters.
What he doesn’t know: his dreams are his father’s dreams,
which are his grandfather’s dreams, and so on. They possessed
a single wish. He knocks repeatedly on the bolted door
to his imagination. Tragically, he believes he can mend
his wounds with his poetry. And thus, I am his most loyal critic.
He trots me out like a police dog.
He calls our thirst for pads and pencils destiny.
Our voices come together like two wings of a butterfly.
On occasion, he closes his eyes and sees me.
I am negative space: the test to all men are created equal.
We are likely to dance at weddings against my will.
He pulled out the same moves writing this poem, a smooth
shimmy and a hop. This page is a kind of looking glass
making strange whatever stone-carvings he installed
along the narrow road to his interior. I suffer in silence
wedded to his convictions. He would like to tell you
the truth about love. But we are going to bed, to bed.
Major Jackson is the author of five collections of poetry, most recently The Absurd Man. He is poetry editor at The Harvard Review, and the Richard A. Dennis Professor of English and University Distinguished Professor at the University of Vermont.
Image: Blik in de loop van een Duits kanon, Anonymous, 1940. From the Rijksmuseum.