A lot to say. A little at a time.

Borrowed: Theory by Paul Hoover

Written in




X could make a face like a fish.

Standing on the sidewalk,

he threw underwater kisses

at a store window where he saw himself.

Someone thought he was crazy.

But X had a theory that had to do

with memory, change, music, and danger.

Everything he remembered

turned purple in his mind,

or it remained this dead white thing

he’d want to shake out of his head.

Plus there was always a difference

between what was and is,

a sad gap like a pause in a song.

Everything converted to fiction

because of the passage of time,

mythless histories that bent in the telling,

like pencils placed in glasses of water.

Since knowing himself

required a marginal reading

too distant for eloquence,

too intimate for communion,

he was always, in theory, something else.

This made beautiful sense.

And yet there was a terror of being

neither person, dream, nor language.

He was, in a sense, a story of his own invention, except without design.

Each step across a room

required a degree of calculation,

like a painter doing self-portraits

who erases the face each morning.

“Inexact but precise”

in his rendering of life,

X saw a fish with tinfoil eyes

drowning in light outside a hardware store.

This was only a theory and yet

what is a stone but a theory of change?

– from The Best American Poetry, 1993



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