What Is It ?

by Maggie Nelson

Maggie Nelson

A sad dusk here, the water
swollen with debris.

The blue wrapper of an Almond Joy;
the hourglass of a Maxi.

Some of the garbage sinks, inexplicably
but most of it just floats by

A bag of Lay’s, another Maxi.
Today the man in black wears

glasses; I wonder how much
one has to drink to achieve

that nose. Yet I get the feeling
he doesn’t drink anymore.

He greets a filthy dog brought
by a skinny hippie. The dog’s teeth

are blood-stained, his hair
falling out in clumps. He doesn’t

really know what he wants, the hippie says
as his dog sniffs the water.

Join the club, says the man in black.
The hippie tells us his dog

has terrible luck. A week ago
it fell into a silo; yesterday

it got electrocuted while peeing
on a pole. We don’t really know

how to respond. The sky is amazing
tonight, full of blurry swans.

Why should I keep writing you? I ask.
Because there’s a purity in it. And so

there is. When the hippie finally leaves,
the man in black whispers to me:

It walks like a parrot, is scrawny,
fishes, and has dark legs. What is it?

How the hell should I know?
I’m living a lie.

Last updated May 12, 2023