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The Follower

Descending the stone staircase that connects the two avenues
I saw the familiar
curve of his bald head below –
what little hair he had was cropped, so the shape was unmistakable,
as was the blue wool sweater,
though with its shiny elbows it was clearly more
worn than the one in my closet.
Running across him like this was so utterly unexpected, so
arresting that I began to follow at what I deemed a safe distance
neglecting the grocery list
folded into one of my pockets:
almonds, lamb chops, olive oil, red peppers, basmati rice, basil,
all the food that had made the man walking in front of me
precisely what he was:
an older version of me, walking in the street, some years from now.
The scarf from my daughter
was wrapped around his neck, faded almost beyond recognition,
but I was glad to see he’d finally
gotten himself some well-made shoes.
I can’t tell you the questions that passed through my mind, questions
he’d already pondered on this strange morning years ago
and long since forgotten. 

I contemplated proposing
coffee, wondered who would be more nervous,
but he seemed in something of a hurry,
and I couldn’t read his expression when he stopped at the intersection:
preoccupied, tired, simply anxious
about the hour, or could that be
a look of contentedness, with a trace of something like
acceptance for the past that was following behind him even now,
a grocery list in its pocket,
taking pleasure in his undiminished stride,
which steadily receded as I stopped to watch him disappear.

The Shell

We were walking the beach

and the breeze fluttered so cleanly

through me I almost

didn’t feel the despair of living

in a dying land

a despair I might find unbearable

should I ever awaken

fully the same person

who quietly creeps into my bed every night

but on this particular morning

I woke as yet another version of me

and walked the packed tidal flats

where I spied the small white lip

no bigger than an absentminded kiss

protruding from the sand

I bent to pry it loose and found

the tip of something so rooted

I understood it was the antler

of what hulks in the cellar of the sea  


Michael Bazzett’s work has appeared in Ploughshares, Massachusetts Review, Pleiades, Oxford Poetry, 32 Poems, and Poetry Northwest. He was the winner of the Lindquist & Vennum Prize for his poetry collection, You Must Remember This (Milkweed Editions, 2014), and his verse translation of the Mayan creation epic, The Popol Vuh, is forthcoming from Milkweed in 2016.