how I know I am a poet

Sometimes, LI is sure he is a poet.

Today, for instance. Today, we were walking down a street in downtown Austin, looking for the office of a friend. We went in and out of buildings on Brazos street, and finally found the office. Soit. So, we are walking down sixth street and we pass by two men who are talking to each other, each having the same height, each sporting a white Ho Chi Minh beard. White guys. And just ahead of us, crossing the street, is another white guy, same height, also sporting a white Ho Chi Minh beard.

Now, things like this happen a lot. We are a strange attractor, or rather, an attractor of the strange. Our predecessors in this field are Baudelaire and Rilke. In fact, if we were going to name these moments – moments of the configuration of some eerie and pointless coincidence – we’d call it the seven old men effect, from Baudelaire’s poem about seeing an bent, rather disgusting old man stumbling along like he was crunching the bones of corpses, and then seeing emerge from the fog another old man just like him, and another, until he saw seven:

A quel complot infâme étais-je donc en butte,
Ou quel méchant hasard ainsi m'humiliait ?
Car je comptai sept fois, de minute en minute,
Ce sinistre vieillard qui se multipliait !

This is plain fact for a strange attractor. I am always running into six shaven headed very fat men wearing UT t shirts, or crossing paths with a bent old black woman who wears a strange sort of old fashioned headdress, Salvation army clothes, clutches a basket to her side, and gives me the same glance I give her – you again? – while she hurries to do something every day, even though I have never seen her arrive anywhere - whose territory, on Sixth street, overlaps mine. Or the man with the nervous tick of going into coffee shops and rearranging the newspapers, left by customers and tossed into a bin, neatly back into their original form: A section, B section, C section. He has his rounds.

“Die wissen, daß ich eigentlich zu ihnen gehöre, daß ich nur ein bißchen Komödie spiele.”

Rilke, of course, was haunted by similar people. The eerie part is –who is really the poet? Me, or the woman with the headdress, or the newspaper organizer? I’m aware that I haunt them as much as they haunt me. We are supremely aware of our territory – we make it out of our routines. And that the civilians around us are not. They are just renters, here. Normals. No obsessions bind them to these paths. They could move tomorrow, and they'd forget it all the day after. Myself, I still remember San Francisco Street in Santa Fe in Spring of 1993, sitting on the passenger side, watching Dave park the van so we could make a brownie delivery, I remember Mansfield Street in New Haven on a peculiarly bruised, Seasonal Disorder Day in the winter of 1995. At the autopsy, if they extract the brain from my head, they will find inside it a ball of very fine lines all tangled up – all those streets that I’ve been on – rather like the strychnine hairs on a peyote button.

LI is either a pisspants poet or a ghost.