The New Census: Chris Martin

Our feature of Rescue Press’ new anthology of contemporary poetry, The New Census, continues this week and next with new poetry by contributors to the anthology. Today’s poet is Chris Martin. You can purchase the anthology here.



Behavior


So the bag

on your head is exactly

like the bag on

mine. That’s how it’s

always been. One bag

for every head

in every city on Earth.

A measure to shore

against the face’s simple

foundational

anarchy. Preempt

behavior. History

of the bag hinges

on the dominion

of Persona, how Western

identity (before the bag) was

hopelessly face-shaped, how

the oval theater of the face

ruined the world. Palliative,

antidote, rescue: bag. In order

for one to be

oneself: a bag. Exile

Proteus, you know?

Or spread

him so thin he begins

to form a bag sea

where we float in circles.

The thing is, you

already know all of this.

You have been wearing the bag

your whole life. And yet

you don’t

understand and I know you

don’t because you ask

to see my face. My very

own face. And because I love

you, because I would

also be nothing

without you, I have to think

very seriously about this and explain

everything once

again. “I only have a face,”

I say, “if you haven’t

seen it.” But that doesn’t seem

to be enough. I can

almost feel your eyes

tearing through

my bag. “What if you don’t

like my face?” I ask.

And of course you swear you

will and that the heart will

hold sway so

that it could never truly matter, owing

to the deep root

of love. This does not

convince me. “Once you’ve seen

it,” I say, “it will cease

to be my face. It will either

be your face or it will be some endless

parade of faces I can’t

control.” Your eyes rip

and slash. “What about the inevitable

contagion?” I can see the vein

in your neck lift

your bag like a tiny fist

knock knock

knocking. “If I take it off

will you promise never

to remove yours, no matter

what I say or do or

become?” You nod and your nodding

is eerily fluid and my hands

are burning and before

I can change my mind I take

off my bag.


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