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Autobiographia Literaria

Jasper Bernes

Bored was the word I had for it at eight

or twelve, a sigh, the only sign my poor

vocabulary found for frowning, my playmate, and together

we dug (bored) not-so-deep pits in the backyard

or built from plywood (boards) and scrap-metal

flightless airplanes. Now, my mother said,

you understand gravity, which is shaped like

an unhappy face. When you’re bored, she said, you’re boring

and later, playing soccer, my father added,

on the subject of gravity: fall, if you must,

on the other guy. It was like long division,

whose fractures I could not grasp together.

Something always went wrong early on with after,

each number become a clump of junked curves, wrung

of it utterness to an unmeaning nub,

leaving a gendered zero, a blackboard’s blank.

I couldn’t understand why anyone would

want to do a single thing twice, even

TV-candy, even steal the already-stolen

states of feeling my father’s collection of scary

Balinese masks were ways of saying, once,

and summers, when they appeared, only

assimilated to larger fields in which I

could not hide—fire, helicopters.

Inside the big windows let on no one home,

the light was an eight, was wait and weight

combined, indivisible, one nation under all,

without quotient or remainder, and I began

the long division of what I was into what I had become

Jasper Bernes

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