“The Affliction” by Marie Howe

When I walked across a room I saw myself walking

as if I were someone else,

when I picked up a fork, when I pulled off a dress,

as if I were in a movie.

                                    It’s what I thought you saw when you looked at me.

So when I looked at you, I didn’t see you

I saw the me I thought you saw, as if I were someone else.

 

I called that outside–watching. Well I didn’t call it anything

when it happened all the time.

 

But one morning after I stopped the pills–standing in the kitchen

for one second I was inside looking out.

 

Then I popped back outside. And saw myself looking.

Would it happen again? It did, a few days later.

 

My friend Wendy was pulling on her winter coat, standing by the kitchen door

and suddenly I was inside and I saw her.

I looked out from my own eyes

and I saw: her eyes: blue gray    transparent

and inside them: Wendy herself!

 

Then I was outside again,

 

and Wendy was saying, Bye-bye, see you soon,

as if Nothing Had Happened.

She hadn’t noticed. She hadn’t known that I’d Been There

for Maybe 40 Seconds,

and that then I was Gone.

 

She hadn’t noticed that I Hadn’t Been There for Months,

years, the entire time she’d known me.

I needn’t have been embarrassed to have been there for those seconds;

she had not Noticed The Difference.

 

This happened on and off for weeks,

 

and then I was looking at my old friend John:

: suddenly I was in: and I saw him,

and he: (and this was almost unbearable)

he saw me see him,

and I saw him see me.

 

He said something like, You’re going to be ok now,

or, It’s been difficult hasn’t it,

 

but what he said mattered only a little.

We met–in our mutual gaze–in between

a third place I’d not yet been.

 

 

Copyright © 2017 by Marie Howe. From Magdalene​ (W. W. Norton, 2017).

***

“Is This” by Oingo Boingo

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