by Todd Boss
Feature image: Ugo da Carpi. The Sibyl and a Child Bearing a Torch, 1510-1530. The Art Institute of Chicago.
who was given up for adoption early on, when it was
clear they couldn’t manage him. It was, says your father,
the worst decision they’d ever made. (It’s you and your
parents at the kitchen table. Between you, the steam
from the teapot uncurls in a kind of breathing statuary.)
He was your inverse, your yin: When you went to sleep,
that’s when his terrorizing of everyone would begin.
He went from home to home to group home, and then
to prison, half mad, a drug-addled teen, with your name
tattooed over the veins in both forearms. “That’s when
we moved to Minnesota,” says your mother, but of course
he found you here, at the end of an abbreviated sentence,
and slit your throat while you slept. This was last year.
You’ve been dead ever since. We know this must be hard
for you to hear: but you don’t exist. You’re your own twin
brother’s obsession with you. (Can it be? Instinctively,
you reach to touch yourself about the shoulders, the neck,
but everything’s . . . identical.) It’s like a mad dream—
yes, the recurring one you’ve had since you were a child,
in which you go from door to door, trying to trade
your life for another’s, but nobody will trade, and you go
on and on, pounding, until, impossibly, you finally find
someone willing, and you wake. Your mother reaches
through the figure of steam to lift the teapot and pour
from out its only portal a little stream into her cup, her
husband’s cup, the cup in front of you. She sets the teapot
down, and now there are four apparitions dwindling there,
silken, gesturing. One of them says, We love you the same.
But you can hardly hear them as you push up your sleeves
—one at a time—and read, and reread, your name.
Todd Boss is a poet, public artist and film producer. His poetry collections are Tough Luck (2017), Pitch (2012) and Yellowrocket (2008), all from W. W. Norton. His large-scale public artworks include building projections, installations, and VR projects. His libretti have been performed at Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. He is the founding Artistic Director of Motionpoems, production company that has turned more than 150 contemporary poems into short films.