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Tense


My species has one for nouns
in the process of passing: say,
a planet you no longer stand on
but which still exerts on you its
considerable tug, the fist
of its massy core reaching
up through groin and torso.
A way, then, to say, not I am
on this world
or I was, but
that other state, the one
between. We use it to discuss
the dying—though usually not
to their faces—and dinner—
as plates are cleared—also love
in its last phases, the sharp
jerk before it, too, falls back
lifeless on the bed. Therefore
we listen especially carefully
to a soured beloved for
the inflection of ending:
that inflected ending (the slip
like a sheet of paper torn
lengthwise) added to a verb,
a susurrant gut punch.
Once, a planet dweller and I
shared years in this tense
reality as if his couch were set
on a cliff edge: moonless
planet in the sparsely starred
rim of the galaxy. We spoke
of ourselves, our common life
this way: never we are, we were
but drawn out years
in a liminal mood. I started
to get used to it—and to him—
and imagined an entire
existence like that, hunched
under afghans in dark night,
feet over the edge, dangling.


Benjamin S. Grossberg

Space Traveler
University of Tampa Press


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