marie howe's affliction

The Affliction
Marie Howe


When I walked across a room I saw myself walking
as if I were someone else,

when I picked up a fork, when I pulled off a dress,
as if I were in a movie.

                                    It’s what I thought you saw when you looked at me.


So when I looked at you, I didn’t see you
I saw the me I thought you saw, as if I were someone else.


I called that outside—watching. Well I didn’t call it anything
when it happened all the time.


But one morning after I stopped the pills—standing in the kitchen
for one second I was inside looking out.


Then I popped back outside. And saw myself looking.
Would it happen again? It did, a few days later.


My friend Wendy was pulling on her winter coat, standing by the kitchen door
and suddenly I was inside and I saw her.
I looked out from my own eyes
and I saw: her eyes: blue gray    transparent
and inside them: Wendy herself!


Then I was outside again,


and Wendy was saying, Bye-bye, see you soon,
as if Nothing Had Happened.
She hadn’t noticed. She hadn’t known that I’d Been There
for Maybe 40 Seconds,
and that then I was Gone.


She hadn’t noticed that I Hadn’t Been There for Months,
years, the entire time she’d known me.


I needn’t have been embarrassed to have been there for those seconds;
she had not Noticed The Difference.


This happened on and off for weeks,


and then I was looking at my old friend John:
: suddenly I was in: and I saw him,

and he: (and this was almost unbearable)
he saw me see him,
and I saw him see me.


He said something like, You’re going to be ok now,
or, It’s been difficult hasn’t it,


but what he said mattered only a little.
We met—in our mutual gaze—in between
a third place I’d not yet been.

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