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Back among the Living

Back among the living, recovered from my sickness
or past lives, or both, however you want to read me,

I seek out stone fences. I try to amuse. I wander
here and there beneath Earth's great blue skies.

I find a railroad trestle and walk across it,
arms outstretched as if I'm a scarecrow.

In a dark alley, I draw a tic-tac-toe game
in blue and yellow chalk upon a brick wall,

leaving the game for whoever comes along to fill it in
or ignore. Que sera sera, as my mother used to say.

"What am I?" she'd ask. "A service elevator? A fire escape?
The last piece of peanut brittle in an oval tin?"

Among the living, when I enter any new room,
I look out every window possible,

drawing back drapes, raising up Venetian blinds
and bamboo shades to see what I can see,

like the bear that went over the mountain
who found on the other side of the mountain

only the other side of the mountain,
his story a little piece of crazy Zen.

And when, among the living, someone floats
an idea about the size of a bar of Ivory soap,

I try to be the first to grasp it, so eager
to make a fool of myself, I become

ashamed of my reaching. I eat Chinese food.
I worship in banks. I prostrate myself

in wholesale stores beneath towering stacked goods,
and when I sleep, which isn't very much,

I find myself dreaming of tree surgeons
cutting down everything beside my bed.

This living, I tell anyone who will listen,
makes about as much sense as a dirigible,

or why so many spend their lives
trying to avoid the certainty one day

Death will meet them head on. The last thing they'll see
will be the prow of a ship, a train cowcatcher,

a Chevrolet grill. Oh well, as my father
used to whisper when he'd finished an ice cream cone,

that's all there is. Que sera sera. What can you do
but lick your fingers and get on with it.

Dick Allen

The Gettysburg Review

Winter 2017

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