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by Dan Chiasson

I was the west
once. I was paradise.

My beauty ruined me: the old
excuse. Perhaps

if I was rich, remote
or fine—but paradise

is always just
too close, too coarse.

Men made me;
though in memory they seem
more steel than

flesh, more copper
than intelligence or whim, ambition, will—

what makes men anyway? Always
groaning on the far end

of some lever, sharpening some blade.

If I were farther, Jupiter
or Babylon, the ocean
bottom, I

might have been a story. Stories never ruined anybody.

But paradise is always only
close enough, just

west, the next, the next, the sun
halved every evening on the same line of

the poem, the poem itself

a minute in the history of minutes. Then
decorative and north,
unstoried, white. And after that pure

thoroughfare. My signs are written twice.


Dan Chiasson is finishing his doctorate at Harvard this year. His work appears in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, and Slate. He currently teaches at Boston University and MIT. (2000)

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