My Delinquency

Samuel Amadon

Having to be so without having to be so, I take my seat at the bar.It's my manner. I'm willful. Absent. Crisp. And cold. I knowwhere to point my eyes when speaking, when listening, whenthe check arrives. I'm having lunch today becauseI'm pretty civilized. When I ride the train, I curvewhen it curves, and I stop when it rests—after I take a sip, I pauseto take a breath. Here is my theme. I'm late for this. I'm latefor that. I'll ask you to move backfrom the billiard table while I take my shot. I hold the cue withmy fingers though my fingers flop. This isthe sweet season. These are salad days. I walkinto the diner, into the park, out onto the rocks above the lake in lovewith my blue t-shirt, my blue jeans, my watch and my cologne.I'm happy to talk with you, and I'm happy to be alone.I find my legs cross at the ankles as I sit in a rowas if with others in a hallway stretching over and out ofcorners with empty classrooms, water fountains, lightsdimming off their sensors—I'm all "after school"and up to chat as I lay my hands down flat to the tiles and lookfrom side to side in a sequenceof nods and smiles. As often as I like, I get away from myselftoward the talk I'm into, conversations afterthe thing, breezing on my daily vacations, unoccupiedin extra time. Come back, come back. The watch on my handhas no strap. I'm adult, I'm outside, and if it'sa fault, I mean, then the fault is mine. This is how I've daredall afternoon on the stone steps below the treefilled with blossoms and bees, waiting for someone who looks likeme, after he's casually gone absent from the meetingroom, out for a twirl past my stoop—for methere's something moored to this businessnot through—the sun on our skin and everything due.

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Samuel Amadon is the author of Like a Sea and The Hartford Book. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, APR, Poetry, and Lana Turner. He is the director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of South Carolina, where he edits the journal Oversound with Liz Countryman.

"Listener bristles with disquiet, its lines a disquisition on the existential situation of the person who listens so hard to himself, 'I found everything / Felt like my head.' Emerging from 'The empty moment before my face surfaces / Before I find I've started the whole thing again,' these poems never escape knowing 'Here I am...I'm no place new,' but they go on to make of thought such an affable trap that we enjoy the sound of it snapping shut on us, too. Each poem makes play out of self's inevitable self-consciousness—'how I saw myself as my own / Toy'—and plumbs the remarkable capacities of poetic language for representation and plasticity, fact and fancy, imagistic precision and prosodic invention. The resulting music brings readers paradoxically back to themselves, to those moments when 'I have a voice I can sometimes find / when my head's in a book, distracted and aware.'"
—Brian Teare

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