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I Prefer the Earlier You—Dear Reader

Unfinished. Your lisps
not yet wizened to
words—dry, erudite crinkling of your lips

before you learned to dodge taxes, jostle
into nylons,
the chuff-chuff over hips.

You—banker with fattened knuckles—or you
dithering through the stacks

as if overseeing your own
ward of loons.
Beneath the tether of jowls
                      loose and slack,

I see your childhood faces,
the sharp glint
of belief. I want that reader
        —not you—

pallbearer, staggering under the weight
of dead love.
What if it's only the two

of us, forever,
our fate: pruned—agog
as lampposts
murmuring our dreaded hate.

Julianna Baggott

Instructions, Abject & Fuming
Southern Illinois University Press

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