After the Fall
After the fall I picked myself up,
slipping my collarbone
under the collar
and smoothing the lumps in my pants,
lifting up my arms as if I’m reaching for something that’s out of reach,
how do you know if it’s out of reach
until you reach for it?
It’s not the kind of abandonment
where you pack up everything beforehand.
After the fall I was a server, catching my hair in a net
and spraying or misting to keep it from wilting,
picking up with one hand
what I dropped with the other,
dropping the ball
and picking it up:
sometimes I pick up things by mistake
that don’t even belong to me,
why do you keep making mistakes?
Slathering on a new cream: everybody says the soreness is going to disappear completely.
After that they put me in a facility, I’m not even sure what it’s called, I was the one who pushed all the buttons
to find the one that actually worked.
I’m not one of those people who thinks everything happens to somebody else,
as when you’re sitting in the dark
and it’s so dark
you don’t even know if you’re the one
who’s sitting in the dark.
Not looking back,
not even looking at the back of my hands or putting my hands behind me,
of course we often drop things
in order to lighten up,
as when you’re standing on one leg,
as far as my own life is concerned I think it’s falling into place, as if everything I pick up has been dropped.
If I Don’t Know What I Need It Doesn’t Bother Me
I think I’ll wait until I need it,
in the meantime when people ask me what I need I tell them whatever you’re having,
or I’ll get back to you,
In the meantime I’m tying back my hair with a ribbon and a piece of string,
giving out my number to anyone who needs it—
people need other people,
there’s no doubt about it,
I’m trying to help out,
In the meantime I don’t believe I need anything
that anybody else doesn’t need,
not even worrying about special needs,
not at the moment:
sometimes I actually think I have the same need over and over again,
that’s when I think my need is showing.
Of course, there are times when we need something
and also need something else
at the same time
that isn’t even compatible with what we need,
as if the need is a cage
and also the key that unlocks the cage,
there’s no doubt about it,
what about when you need something you aren’t even aware of?
What about a package containing something you need and something you don’t even need,
are you even going to open it?
In the meantime I often exchange something I don’t need
for something somebody else doesn’t need,
I’m trying to help out,
I mean not everybody has the same needs,
not in a free country,
what’s the matter with you?
The Judge Is the Mother of Us All in My Dream
and if she’s not she’s a mother in waiting, or else based on a mother, or else picking up where the mother leaves off: it’s convenient that she’s lenient as long as we’re obedient. In her chamber I’m standing under a special light, as if I need to be illuminated, of course things often look different in a different light, I’m not denying it—if I’m placing my hands on top of my head it’s only because my brain is cold, it’s just to keep my hair from sticking out and bothering the judge—at some point the judge is making sure nobody gets away with it, not a single person, everybody suffers when even one person gets away with it, okay? The judge is wearing her robe and underneath a pair of pink flannel pajamas that button in the front, her cheeks are sparkling as if they’re covered with some sort of glitter: I’m not sure if it’s natural or if it’s something the judge does to make herself shine. Holding her hands together, as if she’s putting things together that need to be together, when she decides she lets her eyes slide to the side, as if she’s looking at it from both sides, balancing like lime and ash, not waiting until the same thing is happening and there’s nothing she can do about it, not even thinking under the circumstances: the judge is the one who knows when we need help and when we need to be helpless, we’re not telling her we’re not doing anything because then she’ll think there’s something we’re not telling her. People lie when the truth is even deeper is something the judge is getting to the bottom of, lifting one shoulder and dropping the other, as if she’s proud of what she’s disappointed in. When we’re crooked the judge straightens us out, at the same time she’s bearing it in mind—I mean everyone has weaknesses, it’s pointless not to accept them.
The Judge Sentences Me in My Dream
I’m sitting across the room, resting my hands on the table where the judge can see them, but for some reason there are red and green spots like Christmas lights blinking in my eyes, I’m not even sure if I need to apologize. The judge is looking over my shoulder, as if I’m sitting behind me in a chair in the back of the room, looking at me where I am, or where she thinks I am, when she asks me about my plea the only thing I can think is I want to be the person I think I am. I mean you don’t even know how innocent you are until the case is closed, I’m telling the judge everything I’ve done together with all the things I haven’t even gotten around to, it’s a long story—it’s almost always somebody else’s fault, I don’t mind admitting it. I’m a reliable person, or reliable enough, like the other end of a gear, but there are spots in my eyes taking turns first on one side then on the other, red on one side and green on the other, flashing like stop and go. It’s true, I often get started and then stop to think about what I haven’t even done, and then I think about all the things other people are doing: you don’t even know how innocent you are when everybody is just as innocent. The judge leans toward me, pointing at my chest with her index finger and squinting as if I’m out of focus, the problem with you Pete the judge is pointing out the problem with you is you’re not focusing. The judge picks up her copy of Crime and Punishment and reads me a sentence right out of the book, like a long story she’s making short: to go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s, and I’m not sure if the judge is referring to something in particular, but I’m ready to apologize right now, if I’m wrong in the wrong way I’d be glad to apologize, letting my hands hang down from my wrists like an example, sometimes I think the judge isn’t satisfied after all.
Out of Time
I’ve had my last glass of water,
I’m listening to Time is Running Out
and Take Your Time
at the same time,
like a kind of balancing,
not worrying about anything
spoiling, as when a package is delivered to you
that isn’t even yours,
what are you going to do with it
when it doesn’t belong to you?
Who has the time?
You don’t want to wait until there isn’t any time left is something I often think about
when I have time,
snacking on Jujubes and Thin Mints,
letting my hands rest on the air—
there’s no point holding onto something
that doesn’t belong to you,
who has the time?
I mean we often think about the time we don’t have when we need to think about how we’re using the time we have
is something I’d like to give more thought to at some point
when I have time.
Not holding my breath
or waiting to take a breath,
not even licking my fingers,
like a river drinking a glass of water:
sometimes I think it’s time to go
when I’m just tired of being here.
My lovely wife reminds me
I need to rest for a while,
but I’m not sure how much time I have.
Peter Leight lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. He has previously published poems in Paris Review, AGNI, FIELD, Beloit Poetry Review, Raritan, Matter, and other magazines.