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Published: Sun Oct 15 2000
Salman Toor, Fag Puddle with Candle, Shoe, and Flag (detail), 2022. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, N.Y. Photo: Farzad Owrang.
AGNI 52 AGNI 56 Aging Loss Relationships

I was the west
once. I was paradise.

My beauty ruined me: the old
excuse. Perhaps

if I was rich, remote
or fine—but paradise

is always just
too close, too coarse.

Men made me;
though in memory they seem
more steel than

flesh, more copper
than intelligence or whim, ambition, will—

what makes men anyway? Always
groaning on the far end

of some lever, sharpening some blade.

If I were farther, Jupiter
or Babylon, the ocean
bottom, I

might have been a story. Stories never ruined anybody.

But paradise is always only
close enough, just

west, the next, the next, the sun
halved every evening on the same line of

the poem, the poem itself

a minute in the history of minutes. Then
decorative and north,
unstoried, white. And after that pure

thoroughfare. My signs are written twice.

See what's inside AGNI 52
Night in August
AGNI 91 Loss Parenthood Relationships
Looking for Arrowheads
AGNI 91 Loss Nature Relationships
Accidental Practitioners
AGNI 91 Education Loss Relationships
Letter to Lost City
AGNI 88 Loss Nature Relationships

Dan Chiasson is the author of three books of poetry, most recently Where’s the Moon, There’s the Moon (Knopf, 2010). He is also a widely published literary critic and the author of One Kind of Everything: Poem and Person in Contemporary America. (updated 6/2010)

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