City of Absence

In our city there’s no need to look around, it doesn’t even matter what you’re looking for, as
when you cover something up and there’s nothing under the covering, the walls porous as
sponges, the doors look like pictures on the walls—absence isn’t a door you open to see what’s
inside or a door you close without even looking inside. The walls don’t know anything about the
space between the walls. Nobody’s taking attendance, not giving away your position, you’re not
in a position to give anything away. Everybody knows there are dark areas where the light is
unwelcome, no matter where you live, in small houses on short blocks, in tall buildings on wide
streets. Not even looking in the mirror—absence isn’t something you see in yourself or
something you look for when you aren’t there. If nobody is watching is it even a performance?
Of course, things often disappear when we’re not looking at them or not looking closely enough,
when you hold onto something you’re not even sure if it belongs to you or you’re holding onto it
for somebody it belongs to, there’s no need to look for something you’re not going to find.
Sometimes you need to tell yourself this is where I am, who knows better than you? Who knows
what you know? Absence isn’t a door you close to keep somebody out or a door you open when
you’re going out. True, we’re often absent together, as if we’re spending time with each other or
keeping an eye on each other, if you add it all up it doesn’t even amount to anything—when you
think about all the things that are absent what are you really thinking about? Sometimes I think
our city is sinking, when it sinks it weakens, when it weakens it sinks further, we call it settling,
as if it’s a compromise, honestly it’s nothing to be afraid of. We’re not ignoring the erosion of
trust that isn’t meant to last. There’s room for everything we don’t have—we’ve always been
fond of storage, as long as it’s accessible. Not hiding anything, not even interested in what we’re
hiding, absence isn’t a door you close when you’re not inside or a door you open to see what
isn’t there.


I Think I’m Recovering

Even though I’m not strong enough I lift up the roof of my mouth and hold onto my head
until it stops flapping,

first on one side

and then on the other,

like a border I’m on both sides of,

I know right?

I’m not positive,

I’m trying to be positive,

it’s not the kind of damage you never recover from,

if I’m falling behind it’s only because there’s a soft spot I’m sinking into,

as when you reach down to the bottom

in order to stir something up,

there’s a place on my chest that’s so soft I don’t feel it at all, centered between my shoulders

like a zipper zipping up,

I don’t want you to think I’m off center.

I’m not leaving my face where it doesn’t even belong to me,

when I start swelling up it’s only because there’s something inside that needs to come out,

or is about to,


Even when I’m not strong enough I’m lifting up the roof of my mouth and holding onto my

as when you’re so close to the border

you don’t know how far away it is,

is it even a border?

I’m not afraid,

I mean there are plenty of things I’m afraid of,

that’s not the point,

I don’t think it hurts anywhere,

I mean there’s no point being afraid of something that’s already happened,

isn’t there?

If you look at my lips the lower one is the soft one,

the one that needs to be touched,

when I open my mouth it’s full of red air, like the kind of conversion when you change

and don’t change back,

I’m not even sure I’m taking advantage of it,

as when you have a stomachache and it isn’t even in your stomach, IKR?

I’m concentrating on my breathing

because it belongs to me,

I’m trying to be positive,

I’m not positive,

it’s not how it feels in your body.

This isn’t a medical update.


Mutual Time

What I like about the time when we’re together is it doesn’t even exist,

when you turn

I turn the same way,

you give me half of something

and I give you the other half,

you give me half the house and I give you the other half,

when you exchange something you don’t need for something somebody else doesn’t need

is it even fair?

What I like about the time we spend together is it’s not something we need to take care of

or a secret we’re not even sharing

because we promised not to,

when it’s not actually time

it’s just about time,

which is even better.

You give me your hand

and I give you my other hand,

sometimes I think we’re even closer than we are, like a mutual process of opening up a wound

and waiting for it to close:

what I like about the time when we’re together is it’s a cushion that keeps us from collapsing into
each other

like something we have

that is also missing.

it’s true, we often do things together

when we’re not doing anything at all,

or we’re not actually together,

even when we’re tangled up or tied up like macramé—

let’s just agree

we’re going to agree with each other

no matter what.

What I like about the time when we’re together is it disappears when we don’t even notice

like a curtain between us

that’s just as close to each of us,

we don’t even need to lift it up or push it back,

when we’re not in the same place it doesn’t mean we’re not together, or we don’t get along with
each other,

if one of us keeps going

when the other stops

it could happen to anyone.

PETER LEIGHT lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. He has published poems in The Paris Review, AGNI, the Antioch Review, Beloit Poetry Journal,FIELD, Matter and other magazines.