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PAST TENSE

PAST TENSEby Jayne Lyn Stahl

(for John Coetzee)

He looked like the picture of raskolnikov on the cover of crime &
punishment penguin edition   he talked like james mason in lolita
when he walked nerves would shoot out of the soles of his shoes
his undershirts were always stained from his long walks home
and no matter what he did with his eyes
they did not fit in their sockets.
sometimes I would watch him
it was like lifting the skin off the skull of
a corpse
and catching the wild veins as they shoot past.
what to do with the position of his nose?
the way he parts his smile is
particularly amusing
it is like the Red Sea splitting
historically.
Sometimes I would sit and watch
the police cars shoot through his ears
he would bare his teeth like a wolfman
and I would know it was love.

© Jayne Lyn Stahl
Originally published in The New York Quarterly, Number 16, Page 98
All rights reserved.