A History of Identity


In March 2012, I published a letter as part of a subscription program begun at The Rumpus. The following poem is fashioned from language contained in the responses to that letter.


This is what the sky looked like.
Who can prove I am still alive?
Do you have expectations?
Can I tell you one other story?
I want to let my Bulgarian friends know—
The world is full of magical things.

Identity is one of life’s great milestones;
Postcards are my attempt to fight back.
My mother suffered from dementia;
She hated being called nice,
And then it was over.

An actor in white suede rubs his chest hair—
With all the wildflowers in bloom
I can hear my neighbor listen to porn.
A cesspool of sin is nothing unusual,
Another day of battle at high school,
Hey, there’s some salmon right there,
I see the high pressure front coming in,
Why not stick in a paw?

If you sit at the table you take some bad beats.
He kicked me, he dragged me through the woods.
Pain is not a punishment,
Pleasure is not a reward.
Human moments are strung across an abyss.
Maybe heavy drinking?
Wanna pick up girls?
Is an action a confession?

You are midway to a creature home,
Trained in subterfuge
Now the door is the known land,
The unknown is reduced to a nervous system—
Fingerprints, are they an outgoing obligation?
Admitting to loneliness is admitting that
The sky is beginning—
I love the word gloaming.


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Rick Moody is the author of six novels, three collections of stories, a memoir, and a volume of essays, On Celestial Music. His most recent publication is Hotels of North America, a novel. With Kid Millions of Oneida, he recently released the album The Unspeakable Practices (Joyful Noise recordings). More from this author →