Karen Douglass, Minding the Margins

Karen Douglass

Nameless but familiar, a neighbor
power walks on the diagonal
gutter to gutter, lengthening
his route. He’s old but not lost.

Unpaired electron, he caroms
off both curbs, daily
quilts Earth’s longitude,
grinning as he makes
his own crooked way.

I mind the margins, afraid
of the ditch, fretful
over where to go except
straight on toward another day.

My address is a box, a code,
a key. What makes me cross
only at the end of the block?
a dodge, a bump, a possible fall?
The dog keeps me leashed.

I live inside the lines I’ve drawn.
I make my bed before breakfast. Civilization
means beans sown in rows, cows
pastured in fields walled with stones.

My old ones immigrated but I almost wish
they had stayed put, so I do,
where Ireland bleeds into England.
But they crisscrossed the Atlantic,
a respite from maps and borders.
Let me too invite disorder.
Loosen my stays and laces.

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