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Peter Leight

In the District of Understanding

Island Life

In the District of Understanding

Taking our seats between the aisle and the window, it’s a little cramped, better in person than over the phone, face to face is better, everybody’s bilingual in the same language, thinking before speaking, not speaking without thinking, I think it makes us more thoughtful.  When we turn we almost always turn toward something, it’s like standing in line but nobody is in front of anybody else.  We spend our time together, sleep together, wash our hands together, leaving the water running for each other, give each other friendly pats, I think it’s a kind of collusion—it’s pointless to have secrets, who is a person a secret isn’t safe from?  There’s nothing everybody else doesn’t know:  it is actually harder not to know, when one of us has an idea everybody says it’s just what I was thinking.  We all have the standard four doors, two in front and two in back, we take turns going in, when you touch the knob it is already turning.  You ask me for something I’m going to hand it over right away, without even thinking. They give us a box of keys and we find something to open, they give us an empty room and we fill it in, as if it’s a gifting occasion, as if we’re looking for gift ideas—it’s the kind of exchange where you give back what’s given to you together with something extra.  Taking our seats, it doesn’t matter where we’re sitting as long as we see everything, not everything but everything we need to see—all day long the sun swings its lantern in a full circle like the second hand:  we see all the way to the end of the light.

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Island Life 

There’s water on the edge,

water in my shoes.

I don’t think it’s far away,

I mean I’m not very far away, as if separation isn’t a property of spaces. 

I’m breathing deeply,

I’m not thinking I’d rather be elsewhere,

not projecting, not at all, just the opposite,

drawing in.

Intake rather than takeout.

A small island, compact, or condensed, like something under pressure, sometimes I think it is smaller than its real size.

It doesn’t have a property value,

at least not to me.

The edge rounded, as if it’s imprecise.

I often walk across the island, from one side to the other, without seeing anybody, or walk until I reach the edge of the island,

not going further than the edge.

I’m not sure what I’m looking for.

I’m not waiting to be taken away.

The edge depends on where the water is,

I mean it’s not a boundary if you don’t know where it is. 

Walking to the edge, I stand with my back to the island talking to myself the way you talk to somebody

who doesn’t know what you’re going to say.

The water is long and more or less flat.

It feels safe,

if it’s not on the island it’s not present is the way I’m thinking about my time here.

Of course we often move away from each other without even noticing, separated like mittens in the wrong hands,

as if attachment is a property of spaces.

There are times when somebody wants to get to know you and you don’t want to be any more known than you already are. 

I don’t need to close the windows or the curtains.

I’m not locking up,

on the island going out is the same as staying inside,

as in a hiding place you hide in when everybody knows where you are.

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Peter Leight has previously published poems in Paris Review, Partisan Review, AGNI, Western Humanities Review, Cincinnati Review, Seneca Review, The Southampton Review, Cimarron, Hubbub, and other magazines.

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