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Twentieth-First Century

By

I vote with my feet. I vote with my wallet.
I vote in person with my vote.
I have a call in to my senator’s office, where

I’m almost in tears saying these words to
whomever answers the phone—it’s the words
themselves, not what they call for, or where

they’re from. I have a voice I can sometimes find
when my head’s in a book, distracted and aware,
a voice that runs lines across a teleprompter,

clearing faces, lighting red up into gold as it
booms and twirls and fails to leave a place
for those voices inside me grown fingery

and inarticulate, too faint this time through
the copier to stand next to something so clean
and bright and blue. Blow some air out of

my lips, steal me into the kitchen—it’s all metallic
and you know, I sit there. I don’t put my head
in my hands. I hold it right up. All this

traveling, shifting between positions, negotiating
the anticipated movements of a crowd, or
pausing too long in the spot on

the carpet which causes the automatic doors
to open, while large shadows move across
the big-box parking lot, the cola sloshes

in a glass on deck in a storm, and the signs in
the community garden ask joggers to
keep out, as if limits weren’t absurd now that

the seasons scatter their days like
pieces across some horrible game board.
I try to rest. I’m no good at it. I sit a chair down

in the shower, and put myself in with
all my clothes on. I press stacks of biographies
between my hands, walk them from

room to room. I can participate in a process,
contribute to, delighted to, I’m happy to
hand you my role. I have an aesthetic. I apply

duct-tape to my car, duct-tape to the camera, to
the listening device, to an individual notebook,
to a big stack of them—I am a person

with a thing about doing my work. The caucuses
start, and we can all see this difference
as making things the same. I’m no different.

I mean I find I have no new friends. I walk
around alone, and I can’t quite tell
when I’m asleep anymore. My body carries me

to the windows of the mattress shop, lays me
against the tinted glass. I’m trying to be
a person who asks difficult questions, who one

can’t get things by, but as I prepare my responses,
I find myself offering to get a cup of coffee
for a person I dislike, then a person I like, then

myself again. I leave the lines I stand in all the time.
I have no sense of these words, what
they meant to me. My eyes soften at what feels

a tender moment, but then I find I read it wrong,
it’s formal, professional, an exchange
of gray-blue tones. I’m holding my hands

in the air above the keypad of an ATM machine,
unsure of my next move. I’ve made a political
donation or two, but it feels now like I’ve come out

of a fever, a hole under the blanket, the edge
of which kept coming off my toes. The bus turns
around in the lot, stops, and opens the door. The driver

says we can get off and then back on if we want.
If it were my car, I’d have a pile of glass carafes in
the back seat, aprons, work shoes, golden photos

of dewy gardens in southern New England,
elephant-colored etchings of trash heaps, a corbeil of
diplomas, some fake and some real, matted together

on the seat from the rains, because I have
no windows, no doors, no car, and nowhere
I mean to go. These are the words I walk

around with, because the ones I want
are gone. We already found them, if you remember.
We brought them out in front of everybody,
and we burned them right up.

G

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Author Image

Samuel Amadon is the author of Like a Sea and The Hartford Book. His poems have appeared recently in The New Yorker, Poetry, American Poetry Review, jubilat, Lana Turner, and elsewhere. He teaches in the MFA program at the University of South Carolina, and edits the journal Oversound with Liz Countryman.

Feature image by Robert Indiana. The American Dream, I, 1961. Oil on canvas, 6′ x 60 1/8″ (183 x 152.7 cm). From the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, Larry Aldrich Foundation Fund. © 2016 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Click on the image to enlarge.

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