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Nate Pritts



I don’t have one story to tell

can’t find myself by returning
to any unified narrative
            since I am always cycling / discovering more parts.
Coherence is not a value I believe in
            & has brought me nothing but pain.

You recognize some surface
            place your palm on it              follow it out
to the edges / the corners.
You’ve spent so many nights
            trying to learn a shape
you thought you could hold
                      an object you thought you could give a name to.

So many miles of night & still
           no name for it             no understanding.

My poetry remembers & forgets
             this one self
                       the way my life            has learned routines
            only to leave them
to lose faith
                      while my body empties of what it collects.

I don’t have one story to tell

though I want to create something I can understand
           that puts pieces in even provisional place
temporary convenient demarcations
            even if just for today    / right now
                                                             while I am lost.

Something that began somewhere.
Something that will end.

I want something that will end.     



I can’t enjoy this morning
           which is slow & grey         in deep rainy breaths
           buffered by a sky that curls around itself in layers of color

because I’m not even here.  
             All my energy is concentrated
on some point in the past
                                    that drains this present attention.
I don’t have one story to tell
                       but I can’t stop.

There are so many points of contact
    between consciousness & complex phenomenal experience

& I am hundreds of other people

             each with responsibilities
cares / interrelations                all of which makes me
            human     all of which
I wish I could be rid of



I have four books & some magazines stacked near my chair
              my coffee        some old letters
two years’ worth
                       because I am simply trying to remember.

I turn the light off      every light off        I try to breathe.

You can see the afternoon breeze passing through the open window.
             The air is soft so soft              & so fading.

I drink my coffee & watch everything accelerate.

                      There’s one persistent clutch of green
          at the base of the ruined oak trunk.

I watch the horizon.

                                   I watch everything expire.



We’ve had it wrong.  Life isn’t accumulation.  

Every day is a slow destruction.          
We trade every experience
             for grief at its passing.
Our years proceed          dismantling our loves / leaving us.

The life we live isn’t growing       but fleeing
from us                      leaves us empty / pining
unable to appreciate the moments we’ll miss tomorrow.

I want the stars to ruin us
                                                    our happy smiles.
Like bombs         made of time         transpiring
to destroy everything all of us hold in our hearts.
                 We think it won’t change
       though it already has.

Everything gets lost        & only some things get found.
Somewhere in between is the only love we know.



I work so hard to forget myself
            & now the trees are full of autumn.
This is the time of year         when I would rip myself apart
            if I thought it would do any good.

The cold seeps in    becomes more real than anything real.

            Flowers drop their petals like rags
because they can’t bear all this collection / recollection.
The lakes hiding among the hills

            hold their breath        hope no one comes knocking
& I am the man you do not want to see.

Morning by the pond & each bird shakes itself
awake        moves off violently

& I can’t think.        It’s too cold
             to forget my hands           that my whole body is here
preventing me from falling away from myself.
            I don’t have to tell one story.



My teeth ache because they are real
           & have lived a long time.

Each tree shreds the sky     into pieces of sky.
I live so many different days

           over & over

with all this grief stuffed in my pockets
           & the sky still a mess             still torn.
You have to live through

             live through & forget

forget & then wander back.

I stand completely outside time
             happily lost
in my own backyard             a real place
that didn’t exist yesterday

            because it was different
when my fear of the future was overwhelming

my experience of the present was deafening
in my ears
                        the animal emptiness.



Nate Pritts is the author of six full-length books of poetry, most recently Right Now More Than Ever, and several chapbooks including Pattern Exhaustion and the forthcoming Life Event.  He is founder and Director of H_NGM_N, a small poetry press, and he lives in the Finger Lakes region of New York state.