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 five novels, three collections of stories, a memoir, and most recently a volume of essays entitled ON CELESTIAL MUSIC. The Wingdale Community Singers, in which he plays and sings, have released three albums, of which the most recent is NIGHT, SLEEP, DEATH (on Blue Chopsticks/Drag City). His new novel will be released in 2015. More from this author →