the deciduous man

A Poem by Rex Wilder

     Since I was locked up and the key dangled 
Like a body from each nurse’s neck,
This gray matter has lost the privilege of shades

And the world is black and white. 
Either I was fucked or it’s just a phase. 
Either you climb from the wreck

     Or you burn in the tangle of the metal.
Only so many flames can fit in a forest,
Have you ever thought about that?

I was hit at 5, at 50, hated, emasculated, 
Locked in/out but low-grade, first-world, 
Not worth moving heaven and earth for

     And if I walked into the sea, the drowning 
Wouldn’t make waves. Abuse gets used
Up, no matter how much hurt’s rained down.

My wife used to spit
On me so who needed tears? Hats off
To Lady Saliva and the horse she rode in on.

     Whether I’ll be back is a matter of fate
But where I’m going is so big and gorgeous 
There’s room enough to recover,

Like the open road of summer
When I was 18, like Georgia, wildflowers 
Bent at the waist like a retinue.

Rex Wilder was a misfit from the good old days whose mind finally forced the issue in 2018 — a nervous breakdown, hospital lockup, the full Sylvia Plath. Before and after that, three books of his have been published, and he has poems in TLSPoetry IrelandPoetryPloughshares, The New CriterionThe NationNational ReviewYale ReviewHarvard Review, and many anthologies, including the celebrated Together in a Sudden Strangeness from Knopf. This poem is from his new book, Faces Around a Room.

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