Get our latest essays, archival selections, reading lists, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
My desperation was like that—
I was clambering up a fire escape on Houston Street in hot pursuit
while there it was, lying on a beach in Oregon.
If I could only perceive it, see how large it was,
and be persuaded of its finitude.
You share a detail and I share a detail
and there we are, boring one another
with such sad banalities as we deserve.
I thought I recalled my adversary playing chemin de fer on B Deck
but it was only me, sitting in a red dress, imbibing red drinks.
I can't always recognize myself. Who's there?
or there? Pluck the tune on a zither,
carve the words on a stone slab. Make something,
anything. My desperation called to me, murmuring,
I leaned in to kiss it, and it was gone.
The source of it, deep in some distant volcano,
had to be quenched. I was all set to go on an important journey,
to buy the phrasebook and read it on the boat, getting ready
for the cool wind across my face, fires burning in the sky
and the geese of mourning crossing overhead
as if in a daze and as if themselves an indication of hope.
Vital reading on politics, literature, and more in your inbox. Sign up for our Weekly Newsletter, Monthly Roundup, and event notifications.
Protests in China are shining a light not only on the country’s draconian population management but restrictions on workers everywhere.
Support us with a donation this giving season.
Robin D. G. Kelley on the midterm elections.