Short Essay on the Lyric-Conceptual Divide
All opinions are the speaker of the poem’s. Appropriations are not endorsements.
Everything that happens in the poem happens to me but the me is not me or rather it is not I though I may have been me in the past.
This poem will contain an image, the beauty and/or meaning and/or value of which I will assert either by virtue of itself or of its context.
A long-armed teenager bites his lip, on a loop, so that he is never not biting his lip or about to bite his lip or having just bitten his lip.
This image is either interesting or it is not.
If it is interesting, it is because it is so to the artist and/or to the audience.
If I am the artist and it is interesting to me, the boy is a stranger or is known to me.
If he is known to me he is either known intimately or barely.
If he is known barely, he may be a stranger, the image of whom I took with his consent, thereby he became less strange to me, or he may look familiar because his face is a famous face featured in a proliferation of images.
If he is known intimately, I may or may not have had sex with him. He is old enough it is not impossible, but young enough it is possible he has not yet had sex with anyone.
He may be a poet. If he is not, he may or may not have aspirations of being a poet.
He may not be a poet.
If he is my first real lover from high school, now dead, this has become a confessional poem. If the gif does not exist, this is a fiction.
After seven months of sobriety, his longest ever, the drug took hold of him again. Through everything, his family never stopped believing in him and loving him and only wish that he could have believed in himself. To all of you who are facing this horrible scourge as the family or friend of an addict, please reach out every day and be there for him or her. Let them know how much you love them and that there is nothing they could do to lose that love. To all of you who are addicted, never give up. A slip up isn’t a failure, and you don’t ever have to be ashamed.
The boy bites his lip. Again.
What did you look like
when they pulled you from the river?
Were you naked? Whole?
Remember the afternoon we kept
like a private joke, what we tried and failed?
Does this poem fail you?
Does it keep you alive
in the sunny spot on the floor
where you went to lie
like a dog when you left the bed?
Come here, you said. I’m sorry.
Come here anyway and let me hold you.
From a Friend
I hear you loved me.
You never said.
But knowing one person
has come to this conclusion
is enough—not my friend,
but another man she knows
you slept with. When you
go, take my longing with you.
I have no use for it now.
Selected by Sophie Robinson, our virtual poet in residence for the current issue of The Believer.