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
4 thoughts on ““The Affliction” by Marie Howe”
So beautiful ❤
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Hi Miryll, thank you ❤️ I love Howe’s work. So glad others do too.
Another poem I can so relate to …. the final thought about the third place …
That third place, yes….
Rumi wrote about it:
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.”
as did….wait for it….Bukowski.
Sent from my iPhone
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