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 →