Vox Populi

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Christopher Bursk: The Day Everything Changed

I do not remember the exact date,

but I won’t forget the smell of rain still in the screen door

and the man on the other side

trying to catch his breath

as if he’d hurried here from a place very far away.

He had knocked three times

and then paused

and knocked more sharply three times again

shifting his weight from leg to leg

and reaching out

as if he had a package to deliver

though his hands held nothing.

He had a scar over his left eye

that seemed to have never healed.

When he lifted one palm to the screen door

I lifted mine

to his dimpled skin pressed hard

against the mesh, and then

he leaned his whole head against the door

till his face seemed made of many tiny rectangles.

I think of this day off and on.

It’s one of those stories I tell my grandchildren

in the hopes of finally understanding it.

There was only wire between us

and such hurt in the man’s eyes.

I learned, that day, the real meaning of the word

naked. Then he left,

though I don’t remember him going away

any more than I might this leaf

or that leaf dropping from my favorite tree,

the one that every winter

I wasn’t sure would ever bud again.

I have measured my life from this moment on

though I am not sure when it happened

or if it ever did.

From With Aeneas in a Time of Plague by Christopher Bursk (Ragged Sky, 2021). Copyright The Estate of Christopher Bursk. Included in Vox Populi by permission of the publisher.

Christopher Bursk (1943-2021) was an American poet, professor and activist. He is the author of nine poetry collections, including The First Inhabitants of Arcadia published by the University of Arkansas Press (2006) and praised by The New York Times: “Bursk writes with verve and insight about child rearing, aging parents, sexuality, his literary heroes, the sexuality of his literary heroes.”

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This entry was posted on December 16, 2021 by in Poetry and tagged , , .

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