by David Graham

This isn’t my real personality
standing up half casually
to talk about myself. Usually
I’m sparrow-skittery,
shy as water through
my own fingers —
just ask my mother,
if you can find her; that’s her
hunched in the back row
or two steps from the door.

Usually dew glazes my lip
when everyone’s looking,
sleet thrums my stomach,
a regular hailstorm
in my knees.

What can I give you
but dark inklings
you already know
or a twinge or two
out of history? What is
my stammering hello
but code for farewell?

Wouldn’t you rather watch
buzzards circle their roosting tree?
Without past, without regard
they swirl as black snowflakes
in one of those bubble villages
that live on coffee tables.

Shake them and they perform.
Shake me and I’m gone.

SOURCE: Poetry (August 1986).

IMAGE: “Horse Headed Papageno,” articulated paper doll by Emma Kidd (benconservato), available at etsy.com.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Graham has published six collections of poetry and his writing has appeared in numerous print and online journals and anthologies. With Kate Sontag, he also co-edited an essay anthology on contemporary poetry, After Confession: Poetry as Autobiography. He has taught at North Carolina State University, Virginia Tech, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he received his Master of Fine Arts degree in Literature & Creative Writing in 1980. Married to artist Lee Shippey, Graham has taught in the English Department at Ripon College since 1987.