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Published: Sun Jul 1 2007
Salman Toor, Fag Puddle with Candle, Shoe, and Flag (detail), 2022. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, N.Y. Photo: Farzad Owrang.

When the obsession was lifted,
I felt the sun on my face as if

I were driving a convertible,
as if light had a hand and

a cloak or arm around my shoulders,
falling on me in traffic when I was sunk

in the upholstery, the unchanging red
light, and I’d look up, expecting to see

someone. When I’d sit on a bench
or walk across a parking lot, heaviness

fell off like carburetors, mufflers,
as if I’d been magnetic and called

these things to me, as if obsession
had an auto parts store and sadness

bought a radiator hissing by my side.
Once, a man from England offered

to cleanse my aura. I knew he wasn’t
completely human, like the angels

who were men, so I lay down on
a table like an ironing board, flat

as the table they slid the German girl
on as if she were a loaf of bread

into the oven that was a guillotine—
the actress said it’s nothing

to imagine herself dying here
because it’s all inside her head,

nothing compared to the hundreds
or the thousands who lay locked

inside the wooden block, facing
a metal basket for the head,

but the actress did lie down where all
that fear had gathered and those auras

of goodbye. I slept for hours that felt
like minutes, the Englishman’s face

hazy, rainy behind glass,
and he swept away the dark

clutter that clung to me like bats.
When I woke it was night,

and outside, I walked by a mailbox
that seemed full of messages for me.

Even now when I am on the bridge
crossing the river, birds

write something in the sky,
and at the high point of the road,

the ocean draws a blue line
that I’m driving toward.

Kelle Groom is nonfiction editor of AGNI and has been part of the editorial team since 2022. She is the author of the forthcoming memoir-in-essays How to Live (Tupelo Press, 2023); the memoir, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl (Simon & Schuster, 2011), a Barnes & Noble Discover selection and New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice; and four poetry collections, including Spill (Anhinga Press, 2017) and Five Kingdoms (Anhinga, 2010). Her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, AGNI, The American Poetry Review, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Poetry. She is on the faculty of the low-residency MFA Program at Sierra Nevada University, Lake Tahoe, and is director of communications and foundation relations at Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. (updated 4/2022)


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