Book of Error

Nicholas Gulig

To see and fail to speak from far
away of seeing, to go about
a life, to write to
friends and of them,
to begin within
their names, to wish them well
and end in yours, sincerely,
to drive to work
in a green car singing,
to have insurance, to listen
to the radio, the county
road in autumn,
the light collected
in the maples, in the birches,
beautiful, to mouth
the words of others,
to believe them,
to feel their language
is your own, to own them
momentarily, to feel ashamed
of owning, to stare
into the open
windows of your house,
to stand beside
your wife, in the center
of your yard, living,
breathing, in the middle
of October, the leaves
around you, everywhere
around you, to watch your daughter,
to listen to her laughter
fill you. From far away
across the yard, it fills you.
And then to know within the poem
the noise that other
people make
when suffering. Enough
to love them, to wish them well, you needed
them imagined. You made
them up, the people.
What are people?
And so it was you came
to speak alone, a soul composed
beyond the finite boundary
of an ethics. Etched
into an opening and closing
space, the sound of “it” compressed with “it is not,”
their echoing, your ache

Nicholas Gulig, a Thai-American poet from Eau Claire who attended the Iowa Writer's Workshop and the University of Denver, is author of three books – North of Order, Book of Lake, an ORIENT which won the Cleveland State University Open Book Award. He teaches in the Department of Languages and Literatures at UW-Whitewater. He will be reading at The Local Store at 5 pm on March 11 for Local Lit: Off the Page.

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