Rigorous
Volume One, Issue 4



All it is missing

Bruce Alford


All it is missing When I was a kid, so long ago, huddled in a corner
He seemed to me to be a ghost, not a thief.

He came to see if we had what he wanted. He did
what must have seemed sacred:

Stealing must have been more sacred than receiving
to him. I had seen him in service raising his hands
Year after year after year with one hand extended
can begin to feel like taking.

Suggestion leads inevitably to excess.

God either never forgets or doesn’t exit.

I thought that he was a ghost because he was clothed
in all white, so I pressed into a corner and shut my
eyes. Although I didn’t see him, I heard him walking.

It’s hard to tell an apparition from a person, both
must be mistrusted.

He yanked open drawers and pulled out bras, socks
and silks. This was not written in words not a box
so clearly marked but one turned inside out, something
inside, smashed

cigarettes, small caesuras of death and blackness. It’s
a question we’re wrestling with and cannot answer.

It is not at all what it seems, something present at
hand that we have, an old, soft sheet. Coins spilling
from something deep—a jar of upturned faces.

You are with me. You see me shut my eyes, and you
know what I don’t know.

This was no ghost.

And after he left, I looked for what was missing and
then I closed my mother’s drawer.

I didn’t get it. And this doesn’t at all express what I
want to be seen, what is best. The work never
expresses what I would like to express. A little more
a little less …

It is great living with real skin and real tears, being
touched by or touching real bodies

except when it leads to excess


Bruce Alford: "My debut full-length poetry collection, Terminal Switching, was published by Elk River Review Press in 2007. My work has appeared in African American Review, Comstock Review, Imagination & Place Press and elsewhere, including several anthologies. I have published fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry as well as reviews of contemporary poets such as Natasha Trethewey, Jake Adam York and Sean Hill.

"I received a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Alabama and was an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of South Alabama from 2007-2011. I currently live in Hammond, Louisiana. Before working in academia, I was an inner-city missionary and journalist."




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