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Mary Jo Salter

Mr. X [by Mary Jo Salter]

Mary Jo Salter
Mr. X

By the time you're forty, you've met so many people
their features fit together as little bits
from other people, like the Identi-Kits
that victims piece together with the police.
The felon is memory, which takes a face
and slices up what once was very simple.

People you loved, the waiter you saw every week
without seeing, arresting strangers re-assemble
years later in other faces and belong
convincingly there, as if they were unique,
and innocent of how they make you tremble
with remembering or forgetting.  I was wrong,

Mr. X—you whose cheekbones I recall
from somewhere, and that funny, slightly cross-
eyed, quizzical look you shot me on the single
occasion we met—to assume you must have lost
someone who looked like me.  And yet I stared
longingly at you, as you disappeared.

-- Mary Jo Salter

from A Kiss in Space, Alfred A Knopf, 1999

March 10, 2023

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That Ship Has Sailed
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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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