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The Same City



The rain falling on a night
in mid-December,
I pull to my father’s engine
wondering how long I’ll remember
this. His car is dead. He connects
jumper cables to his battery,
then to mine without looking in
at me and the child. Water beads
on the windshields, the road sign,
his thin blue coat. I’d get out now,
prove I can stand with him
in the cold, but he told me to stay
with the infant. I wrap her
in the blanket, staring
for what seems like a long time
into her open, toothless mouth,
and wish she was mine. I feed her
an orange softened first in my mouth,
chewed gently until the juice runs
down my fingers as I squeeze it
into hers. What could any of this matter
to another man passing on his way
to his family, his radio deafening
the sound of water and breathing
along all the roads bound to his?
But to rescue a soul is as close
as anyone comes to God.
Think of Noah lifting a small black bird
from its nest. Think of Joseph,
raising a son that wasn’t his.

Let me begin again.
I want to be holy. In rain
I pull to my father’s car
with my girlfriend’s infant.
She was eight weeks pregnant when we met.
But we’d make love. We’d make
love below stars and shingles
while her baby kicked between us.
Perhaps a man whose young child
bears his face, whose wife waits
as he drives home through rain
& darkness, perhaps that man
would call me a fool. So what.
There is one thing I will remember
all my life. It is as small
& holy as the mouth
of an infant. It is speechless.
When his car would not stir,
my father climbed in beside us,
took the orange from my hand,
took the baby in his arms.
In 1974, this man met my mother
for the first time as I cried or slept
in the same city that holds us
tonight. If you ever tell my story,
say that’s the year I was born.

About this poem

For James L. Hayes

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Written on 2002

Submitted by Drone232 on August 07, 2022

2:02 min read
14 Views

Terrance Hayes

Born in Columbia, South Carolina, Terrance Hayes earned a BA at Coker College and an MFA at the University of Pittsburgh. In his poems, in which he occasionally invents formal constraints, Hayes considers themes of popular culture, race, music, and masculinity. “Hayes’s fourth book puts invincibly restless wordplay at the service of strong emotions: a son’s frustration, a husband’s love, a citizen’s righteous anger and a friend’s erotic jealousy animate these technically astute, even puzzlelike, lines,” observed Stephanie Burt in a 2010 review of Lighthead for the New York Times. In a 2013 interview with Lauren Russell for Hot Metal Bridge, Hayes stated, “I’m chasing a kind of language that can be unburdened by people’s expectations. I think music is the primary model—how close can you get this language to be like music and communicate feeling at the base level in the same way a composition with no words communicates meaning? It might be impossible. Language is always burdened by thought. I’m just trying to get it so it can be like feeling.” more…

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