Excerpts

Direct Address

Direct Address by Julia Alvarez:

I love those poems where writers turn to me,

addressing me as you- and though I know

that thousands upon thousands of readers

have trod his Leaves of Grass, I’m still convinced

it’s me Whitman’s instructing when he writes,

Look for me under your bootsoles.

The signs of those we love are everywhere,

their ghostly faces rushing by on trains

or forming in the clouds; nurseries belie

the stony closures in the graveyard.

That is the only the dead come back

as far as I can tell. My grandfather

surfaces in the locust’s gnarled trunk,

so comforting to touch his face again.

The bulldog wears my fourth grade teachers’ scowls;

I back away as when I was a child.

Pachelbel’s canon calms like Chucha’s arms.

And what a shock to find in a Vuillard

my grandmother peering out as if to catch

the lazy maids at their shenanigans.

I’d like to think this is how I’ll come back:

Lines in a poem that spring upon your lips,

though who the author was has slipped your mind.

It’s agency, not fame, I want: my words

At work, a slap awake, a soothing hand.

But since death’s likely to transform my wish,

there’s no direct address that I can give

where you should look for me. So you (yes you!),

keep watch! I could be under your bootsoles

or inside this poem already inside you.

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