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A is for Afterimage (excerpt)


While you sleep, I watch a movie. A man bangs his head against a shelf in a library. It’s the magazine section: I can almost tell the year of the movie from the magazine titles. I love the image of white shirts hanging on a clothesline, as long as it’s not in my backyard.

He picks scabs into the backs of his hands, and tapes old pictures of tigers all over his mirror. He ends up cutting off his fingernails.

When we lived together, I pretended I didn’t like cats—they seemed too sentimental for you, you who read Nietzsche long into the night. We slept on a futon you rolled up against the wall every morning. It was so hot in Portland, the futon stank no matter how many times you washed the sheets.

I used to worry about you burning; your medication made you so vulnerable to light. After the hospital, you moved stiffly, like a dried up robot. The cats didn’t recognize you, hissed at you like you were the garbage man. And your tongue rolled out at odd intervals.

Later we decided to pick out a kitten together. You said it was too soon after our first cat died of cancer. I accused you of only caring about the sofa.


CHRISTINE HAMM has a PhD in American Poetics and is a former poetry editor for Ping*Pong. Her poetry has been published in Orbis, Rhino, Pebble, Lake Review, Lodestar Quarterly, Poetry Midwest, Rattle, Dark Sky, and others. She has been nominated four times for a Pushcart Prize, and she teaches English at CUNY. Echo Park,  her third book of poems, came out from Blazevox in fall 2011.