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--- J A N   C L A U S E N


In a dream, I'm "word" -- word's the word I'm assigned, supposed to repeat when my turn comes around. We're sitting in a circle in church. Presumably the others have other words to say. In the dream, I'm glad I get to be "word."


How am I supposed to get a word in edgewise when the world won't shut up? Back in waking life, the apartment of my youth. Packing up to leave for middle age. Invasive beat bleeds up from the floor below. Leggy plants tilt at cool windows just before spring. Gruff mutts bloom in the iron aperture of patient fire escapes, brick soft like faded jeans.

Bracketing the racket, sucked teeth, mulled rage.

How streets circle these stories, this concussive radiance.

This sweat, this winding sheet. This Law of the Father. This not having a plan.


If "miscegenation" were only in the cards! However: no such luck as marrying into anything. Rich Africa at a gulp or even two boys named Winston and Randolph drinking crab soup on a long-ago island. Steering burlap sacks of limes on donkey-back to market.

Instead: the rain forest. Moss beards and razor clams. The Cold War, the troll under the bridge.

But the girl who played the flute, that blameless instrument, has been a woman now in three or four lives. With her hair in a drawer, she begins to improvise. She writes the ending first.


As I jog on the curb admiring my new sneakers, Unhappy Consciousness pulls up in a van.

Yer ugly he bawls in the direction of my crewcut, inexplicably entitled.


In a dream I write a book called Everything or Nothing.

Over years I drift, compelled by other rooms.

I give myself a piece of sound advice:

Don't get too busy for the street.

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