Shirts or Skins, a 2014 poetry chapbook by Jim Redmond

Giving Nietzsche to a Young Boy

A young boy using a mirror for a bookmark,
and book closed
the German like an itch beneath the skin
of bad English
the book like an itch beneath the blank taste
of cauliflower
the little tongue unable to and
a whole life of mother’s easy cooking upset in his stomach
to think of the mirror
a wedge between empty and emptied of meaning;
gifts darkness to darkness

and the words that are there but unreadable
fanning out, the lake effect
of when and how and what God breathed over
the bend
the boy, keeping watch
counting the difference between goats and sheep
and not a few swine
making their way over
the bend, fat ridge of glass,
God’s breath on the mirror like a stupor over the day

and the boy, wishing he could read the one word
that broke Nietzsche down
one word, like the flogging of horses
if it could all
come down to one word
one bend to go over
his brother told him about it,
how some books aren’t for reading
but for wishing you could
and for feeling the weight of not knowing
tucked hard like a mirror
between the vastness of pages.

Originally published in Pedestal Magazine


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