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Peter Leight

Note from the Lost and Found

Sometimes the Uncertainly Is a Shield Protecting Us from What We Need to Know

Dangerous Journey

Changes in My Condition


The Problem of Momentum in an Uncertain World

If I'm Hesitant It's Because I'm Uncertain,

The Art of Hiding Out


Island of Loneliness

Note from the Lost and Found

When I’m looking for something I’ve lost
I empty my pockets
and lighten up
lifting up my arms
and pushing the air out of the way
I don’t want to be one of those people who joins a search party for the refreshments.
To be honest I don’t even know what I would lose if I could find anything I looked for.
Not looking more closely
than I need to
that’s not what I mean
how do you look for something you already haven’t found?
There’s a line between my eyes
right down the middle
as if I’m using one eye
to look for the other
not tired of looking
that’s not what I mean
why lose something you’re going to find?
Everybody knows seeing is believing what if believing is also the opposite of seeing?
Not looking for anything
that’s not lost
to see if I’ve lost it
I don’t want to be a person who joins the search party in order to take a seat next to the punch bowl.
Holding my hands in my lap
where I know I’ll be able to find them
when I need them
honestly I don’t even know what I would find if I could lose everything I looked for.

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Sometimes the Uncertainty Is a Shield Protecting Us from What We Need to Know

When I’m uncertain

I sway from side to side

as if I’m walking on platforms

rather than my usual flipflops,

shivering even though it isn’t cold,

turning up the volume

so I can get up

and turn it down—

I don’t even know

if I’m not in the mood:

of all the things we don’t know anything about

what do we actually need to know?

Abraham didn’t know

he was waiting

for his name to be called,

and Isaac didn’t know

he was waiting

for some sympathy,

waiting until the last minute

to be saved,

like a punishment

that turns into a reward—

of course, you don’t want to wait

until there’s nothing left

to wait for,

when you don’t know what’s happening

are you waiting to find out?

It’s true when something happens there’s almost always something that isn’t happening

at the same time,

like a reward

that’s also a punishment—

of all the things we don’t know anything about

is it better when we don’t even need to know?

When I’m uncertain

I pick up my handbag

and move it from one hand to the other,

swaying from side to side

as if I’m walking on wedges

rather than burrowing

into my jungle mocs,

shivering like a child with a fever,

except that a fever can be relieved

and in the meantime a river of sympathy pours over you.

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Dangerous Journey

I’m lifting myself up
            and standing on my toes

            in the stirrups,

raising my hands

            and reaching out with my hands
                                                                        to hold onto the air,

            to be honest I’d make some concessions
if I could find the concession stand,

            but they’re not the kind of people

                                                                           you come to terms with—

            it’s dangerous to talk to them,
just as dangerous when
you’re not even having a conversation,

even more dangerous
            when you’re not thinking
about how dangerous it is,

as if it’s one of those journeys
                                                            you never return from.

            Nobody’s saying it’s not that bad

Sometimes I think they’re
            softening me up:

            when my hair starts falling out
I bow my head

and let my chin drop down,
            opening my hands,

                                                   as if I’m showing my willingness—

            it’s even more dangerous
when you’re trying to find

            something that’s not dangerous,

like a close-up that’s so close
            you don’t even know
                                                            what you’re looking at. 

Nobody’s saying it’s going to be alright

            Leaning over the saddle

            and lifting my hands
in front of me

                            as if I’m warning myself,

            it’s the kind of warning
that doesn’t keep anything from happening.

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Changes in My Condition

When I open my mouth
            it’s empty inside,

            I’m taking all the pills
that don’t do any good

                                               and flushing them down the toilet,

            not even swallowing when I’m not taking anything in,

honestly it’s not easier than I thought,
            not at all,

                                I’m not in any condition.

            As far as the incremental approach is concerned
I don’t believe it is comprehensive enough:

if something is changing it is often the case
            that other things change

            at the same time,

            as when the bubbles in your body
line up in long columns

                                           running up to the surface,

            breaking the way buds open up,

            it’s not painful,
it doesn’t even feel like anything.

Changing and not changing back,

                                                            as in a conversion,

            picking up the seedy pills
and dumping them,

when I open my mouth
            I’m airing it out,
breathing in and out

                                      at the same time,

not losing my appetite,

            that’s not what I mean:

the conditions are almost always pre-existing,

                                                                                     like a combo package,

            in my experience it’s often difficult
to change at the same time

                                                  it’s difficult to stay the same,
            I actually think my nerves are stretching out

            like one of those telescoping handles
                                                                              that pulls out of itself,

sometimes you need to tell

            yourself you’re wasting your time.

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Close to the edge,
in the edgy area
on the skirt
of the margin,
as if it hasn’t always been
like this.  Turning one way
then the other, edged
into the sketchy
stretchband of the ecotone
like a zoom
call:  if there’s a seam
where it’s sewn
together there’s a seam
where it comes apart.

They’re not like
us, not like
people we know,
I mean we don’t even know
what they’re like. 
Staying inside
in our back
to back cabins
along the sketchy margin,
holding our handbags on one side
and passing on
the other side,
like a picture you take
by mistake. 

A marginal space
stretched along the seam,
flattened like a hair
line:  some of us
benefit from
the division, and some
of us pay the price—
it’s almost never
a matter of principle. 
We’re not the kind of people
who think things happen
on one side because
of something that happens
on the other.

Sitting on one side
and looking over
at the other side,
like lookouts looking out
for each other:
sometimes I think we’re
looking for something they have
at the same time we have
something they’re looking for.
Picking up on one side
what we put
down on the other:
we don’t even make
the same mistakes. 

When there’s a seam
where it opens up
there’s a seam
where it’s sewn shut.
Side by side like the white
meat and the dark meat,
as if it’s always
been like this.
Everybody knows the nuclear
family has broken up.
Paying the price,
whatever it is—
it’s not the kind of failure
you never get over.

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The Problem with Momentum in an Uncertain World

            I’m lifting my head to see
what’s in front of me

                                       and what isn’t,

            as when you put something
where it belongs
            and it ends up somewhere else,

            I don’t believe it’s biographical:

I mean it’s easy to lose your place

                                                                     when the world isn’t the same anywhere,

            are we talking about the same world?

            Lifting my head
            and letting it fall,
like a kind of momentum,

            it’s true momentum is often

                                                                     the unexplained absence of control,

            I don’t even know if it’s sustainable
sometimes I actually think I don’t need to leave

            is the reason I’m leaving,

as if I’m moving from room
to room in a house

                                    I’m not even in,

            I don’t care who knows.

            Rounding up my hair
and fastening it with clips,

pulling back my lips to make room
            for the watery breath

                                                      that pools in front of me,

            not waiting until it’s all over,
that’s not the point,

            when is it over?.

Not even stopping to think

                                                   or stopping without thinking,

when I’m uncertain
            I turn to the side

            and the other side starts turning,
as if it needs to be supportive:

it’s easy to lose your place

                                                    when the world is the same all over,

            are we talking about different worlds?

As for as my momentum
            it doesn’t have any content

            as far as I can see,

things are often under control
                                                         until they slip out of control,

            when I sit down
I open a folding chair

            in case I need to fold it up

`                                                              and put it away.

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If I'm Hesitant It's Only Because I'm Uncertain,

not sitting down
or getting up
for no reason,
no reason at all, 
if you don’t finish
the water in your glass
isn’t it just about half empty? 
I’m actually moving in with someone
as soon as I find someone
who’s moving in with me,
if I’m hesitant I mean I’m only hesitant
because I’m checking in with my feelings how are you feeling are you feeling okay?
I don’t have a trigger,
not even touching the trigger
or pulling the trigger,
when you don’t have a trigger
nobody can say you missed
when you’re not trying to hit anything.
If I’m hesitant I want you to know I’m only hesitant
because I’m lifting up my lungs and thinking about the survival of the fittest:
when this happens I need to take everything out of the closet
and try it on,
not even thinking what if it doesn’t?—
if I’m hesitant it’s only because I’m softening in places
and hardening in places,
which often accompany each other in my experience, 
when this happens I open the door
and stick out my face
to cool off the top of my head,
not even asking for another glass of water:
I don’t want to be disappointed
or pretend I’m not disappointed.

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The Art of Hiding Out

We hide when we’re hurt.
Sometimes it hurts to hide. 
When they ask us where
we’re hiding we tell them
right where we are,
or just inside,
as in the part
of the drawer
that’s all the way
in the back.  Not disturbing anybody
we’re hiding from.
Maybe we’ll find a hiding place
where we know they’re
going to find us.

Tying some string around
our wrists to keep them
from slipping off,
putting things away beforehand
like a form of pre-regret—
not uncovered
isn’t the same
as covered up.
Personally I’m tired
of running around,
like a pet
in a loop,
it’s not the kind
of unemployment you work your way out of.

The walls are shadows,
the windows are stains
on the shadows
of the walls,
sometimes we look more closely
and there’s even less to see.
When they ask us
how we’re hiding we tell
them same as everyone
else, or same as usual,
as if we’re responsible
for everything that’s not hidden.
There’s no need to conceal
what isn’t exposed.

we’re trying to make
ourselves comfortable,
we can’t help it.
Hiding our regret,
as in a peephole
in which nothing is visible:
if it means something to you
and means something different to
another person is somebody
making a mistake?
It’s not realistic
to think you don’t have to
give anything up. 

An empty container doesn’t tell
you what it’s like to be full—
when they ask us where
we’re hiding we tell
them anywhere
there’s room,
anywhere at all.
Sometimes we hide where
they’re going to find us,
making tubes around our eyes
and looking them
like a peephole,
not trying to visualize
It’s not something you learn from.

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Inside there’s room for everything we need room for, nobody’s saying there’s not enough, if it’s a system I believe it’s nervous like the nervous system, it’s moving around like the continuous vehicle of the circulatory system that’s so smooth you don’t even notice anything, it’s not something you have faith in.  I’m sitting in the back where I sit when I’m not in the front or on the side when I’m not in the middle, not thinking where am I going or where am I now:  a ticket isn’t something you hold in your hand.  Sometimes I put things down to see if they stay, when I reach for something I need some space to reach in, when I turn around I need space for my retrospective, projecting from the inside at the same time I’m introjecting from outside, as in a story in which you imagine everything that happens to the person in the story happens to you.  The doors open in, as if you’re moving further in, I’m making windows with my hands and looking through them, like an idea that’s proportional to what it’s an idea of, honestly I don’t even know if I’m taking it with me where I’m going or if I’m going where it takes me:  nobody’s saying this is all there is

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Island of Loneliness

            If I’m whispering
it’s only because
this is a quiet island,

this is an island

            that isn’t colonized,
for instance,

            this is an island
that does not support

            human to human

            transmission, I don’t
mind admitting it,

            it’s even more solitary

            than I expected,

for instance 
            this is an island
that is completely privatized:

            I like to imagine
it belongs to me, 

when I have
            what I need
or there is something

I don’t need to have,

            either or both,
that’s all.

            If I’m whispering
it’s only because
this is an island

            that is lacking
in allies for instance,

this is an island
            that is missing cooperation:

sometimes I put my fingers
            in my mouth

            to see if they taste like me,

            laying my hands on my head
and pulling it open
            like a secret door

nobody knows about—

if you’re waiting for something
            that doesn’t even happen

            isn’t it the same
as not waiting

            I like to imagine
this is an island
            that belongs to me

            because it’s no one else’s.

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Peter Leight has previously published poems in Paris Review, AGNI, FIELD, Beloit Poetry Review, Raritan, Matter, and other magazines.  

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