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Life Sentences

The short weekend began with longing

Like shoes lined up on the closet floor waiting to be filled

The search for beauty in an age of war

I’m gonna hustle out before the vibe in here gets any worse

Mobility, that flood, jammed against the ordinary wash of things

Welcome to my country

Whatever it was you were looking for has gone and transformed itself into something you haven’t yet discovered you want

The emperor penguin, that dream spouse

In passing the brackish river (there was nothing more formidable, less inviting, more austere, foreboding, at once self-contained and restive) we began to feel the smallness of things, the city even, our tiny lives

She addressed the crowd by turns sincerely and with thanks, with humility and gratitude, with anger and ennui, with poise amidst gridlock, with no little tint of shame

Would that my mostly companion were this red leather book in this red leather bag

What is a blade of grass compared to the inner workings of an inner city

Baby coupons, diet offers, free stuff crowd the vision

There are no trees here, or birds to fill them

Faith, faith everywhere, but never any good to tell

All’s he wants is a shave and a haircut

The deforestation of my memory has been as complete as it ever will be. I’m so much younger now

The yogurt had a lot to do with it

Days of small sorrows alongside mass market concerns and tulip shadows cloud the evening’s suggested protocol, dinner, dream sequence

Night was beginning, more miscellaneous than ever

And there you were, looking so flush-left, brief, and sequestered, your rainy visage clouded with concern

Some other mothers never bother with fathers

That transgressive point at which, the material exploited beyond practical application, meaning so ruptured as to suggest no quantifiable relation between symbol and referent, gesture looses from impulse and connotation hurls haphazard bits across the surface

This job is particularly suited to those with a passion for anonymity

Nothing depends on this

So many forlorn tendencies amongst banks and banks of forgotten triumphs

In gesticulating histrionically to his captive crowd, the speaker shed his former self and walked away a new man, part worshipped idol, part empty carapace

Sink fast if you want to get out of here

I envied them their exuberance

In that secular moment we ceased, quizzically, to worry the source of our revelations

And the house, malleable for all those years, rallying to all the spaces between us

Respect for the dead is futile. It no longer matters what I do about you

No spitting, drinking, radio playing, cursing, adulating, genuflecting, ratiocinating, pleading, exhibiting, soliciting, posting, demonstrating, habit forming

I’m stuck inside my jacket and it’s too soon to say when I’ll be able to get out

As with rain, so with memory, spills and spills

The tagine was spoiled and the guests called away, only the table, spread with blue china and rhododendron, silver rings for the scalloped linen napkins, its austerity unblemished, seemed to cling with desperate and naïve patience to the evening’s plans

One sentence washes the other

That paratrooper, identity

There had been moons. There had been oceans, other worlds of oceans

Our lipophobia begat our carbophobia

Mailbox is an oxymoron

Of all the things I’ve touched, this chasm is the most solid and complete

I ache for one fraction of the decadence we knew that summer

Your rhetoric is all over my head

No question the suckling pig was a mistake

As dignity and virtue no longer suffer the operation, book, or lipstick, speech becoming elegy to itself

As you will begin to understand in another century

It wasn’t the contessa so much as the contest

From one plated disaster to the next broken arrangement we headed by spleen and tail for a less bottom-dwelling community

I hadn’t meant to love this one

We forget not what doesn’t matter but what matters too much

The candor and cheap joy of that night of empty bottles under the bridge lasted all the way to the next summer, spanning our breakneck year

I love you the way I love the “double rhythm of creating and destroying”

The whole could never be said to contain the sum total of all the parts along the way, yet it is hard to say which is greater

Stet the ampersand

No dusk has spread so completely to the tips of every object within view, each wisp tinged with its indigo-grey light, the room receding and the faces coming more fully into focus with each passing


As it is good to meet up with porridge at last

It’s nice to hear you smile

All the bright lights and passersby somehow attenuated the sting of our canned discovery

I used to be from around here


Elizabeth Fodaski

Elizabeth Fodaski is the author of fracas (Krupskaya, 1999). She lives in Brooklyn, where she teaches English at Saint Ann's School.


The Brooklyn Rail

MARCH 2009

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