Peter Leight ~ Three Poems

Self-Portrait as an Absent Person Who’s Not Even Here

I’m not in trouble
or anything,
I’m putting on some eye­shad­ow and pulling the shad­ows over my eyes,
pulling up my hoodie,
pulling back my hair
to get it out of the way:
absence isn’t just turn­ing away or being turned away from
if that’s what you’re thinking.
When I lie down
my head rolls off the pillow,
and my eyes dis­ap­pear like a kind of invis­i­ble mending,
it’s not difficult,
not disgusting,
if it’s a problem
hon­est­ly I don’t even know if it’s a problem:
I mean there are times when you need to be absent, as if you’re prac­tic­ing for a per­for­mance you’re not even in,
peo­ple want to know you but you don’t want to be any more known than you already are,
that’s all.
As long as I’m absent my skin is soft and brown, like a wet paper bag,
I’m trim­ming my eye­lash­es and stuff­ing the hairs in my pockets,
car­ry­ing my hands in a paper bag
where I can’t even see them,
not cov­er­ing any­thing up
that isn’t uncov­ered in the first place:
if it’s indif­fer­ence it isn’t mine.
I mean I’m not even here.
Absence isn’t a ring or a life­line you drop when you’re not hold­ing onto it
if that’s what you’re thinking,
I don’t even know if it’s excused,
or unexcused,
not even ask­ing for permission—
I’m not even here,
not mak­ing eye con­tact for instance,
not even leav­ing a note,
hon­est­ly I don’t need the absence in order to read into it some­thing that isn’t there.


Self-Portrait as a Secret Person Who’s Reaching Out

Sometimes I think I’m just starving
when I’m not even hungry.
Lifting my hands
and push­ing the air out of the way,
when I put out my hands they start drift­ing like a boat
that’s sail­ing around with­out going anywhere:
it’s dif­fi­cult at first,
then it’s dif­fi­cult not to.
Smoothing the lit­tle mounds where the hairs are attached,
as if they’re get­ting ready to bloom:
I’m putting on some of those soft white gloves that are so smooth and slip­pery they don’t even know what they’re touching,
not even mak­ing an impression:
they’re per­fect for secrets,
if it’s a secret it can be any­thing you like,
any­thing at all—
I think I’m accept­ing as long as there’s an offer.
When it’s a secret
I don’t know any­thing about it,
is this what they mean by a secret offer?
Not reach­ing in to take any­thing out
or look­ing for some­thing to bring back with me,
not even hold­ing on:
when you hold onto some­thing you nev­er get anywhere,
you end up being incapacitated.
Sometimes I think I’m just starving
when I’m not even hungry.



Right now I’m hold­ing my hands in front of me

where they can go either way,

like a form of interpretation,

I’m not even sure if it’s a stimulus

or a response.

Not mak­ing it easier,

that’s not the point—

I have some pills,

they make me sad,

when I’m sad

I take my pills,

I’m not even sure

what I like about it:

I’m call­ing it Trigger

because it’s not warn­ing me not to.

I know what you’re thinking,

deep down who can argue with Kant’s what­ev­er is is

and what­ev­er isn’t isn’t,

is there any­thing else like it?

When I sit at the kitchen table

with my hands on the table in front of me

I often keep an eye on myself,

as if I’m look­ing at someone

I’m not sure I trust,

I don’t even know

if it’s some­body I’d like to know:

some­times I think I guess so.

When I can’t think of any­thing hon­est­ly it doesn’t mean I’m being thoughtless.

Not point­ing,

not at all,

this is just the way I hold my hands with the wrists curved

when I’m not even sure they belong to me, not even using them for anything,

I know what you’re thinking,

who can dis­agree with Kant’s it is what it is,

and it isn’t what it isn’t,

is there any­thing else?

When I’m uncertain

I place my hands on the table with my fin­gers curved slightly

like a casse­role wait­ing to be spooned out,

I’m going to for­give myself

as soon as I have a chance.

The Nervous Condition of Uncertainty

I’m stick­ing in my earbuds

and lis­ten­ing to Blondie’s I Know But I Don’t Know,

I believe I’m gain­ing weight,

not in my body,

it makes me nervous.

Holding onto my ribcage,

which is start­ing to slip away,

which is the reason

I’m hold­ing onto it:

if some­thing hasn’t happened

how do you know if it’s not going to happen?

Wasn’t it Kierkegaard who thought pos­si­bil­i­ty is nev­er disappointing?

As long as I’m uncertain

it makes me nervous,

some­times I think I’m too nervous

to be nervous,

I don’t know if it’s a problem—

this is the law of what do you expect:

maybe if we knew what to expect

we’d like it more

than we expected.

When I’m uncer­tain I put down

what I’m hold­ing onto

and pick up some­thing else

at the same time

to see if it evens out,

do you think it’s eas­i­er to have an opin­ion about some­thing you’re not even sure about?

Kierkegaard believed life is not a problem,

why are there so many problems

in a person’s life?

Of course, there are times when you expect some­thing to happen,

and some­thing else happens,

like a refutation,

I mean it’s dif­fi­cult to antic­i­pate what’s unexpected,

I’m not one of those peo­ple who’s think­ing it’s not my problem—

is it eas­i­er to think about some­thing you don’t even have an opin­ion about?

When I’m uncer­tain I lis­ten to Blondie’s I Know But I Don’t Know,

hey you know oh I don’t know”:

I actu­al­ly think it makes me nervous

to be nervous,

not in my body,

as when you gain weight you don’t even notice

until you’re heav­ier all over.


Peter Leight lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. He has pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished poems in Paris Review, AGNI, FIELD, Beloit Poetry Review, Raritan, Matter, and oth­er magazines.