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If I can’t have the exquisite pain
of boredom, maybe I’ll try love.
When I worked in a university archive
I’d fall into a fugue state staring
at the row of yearbook spines before me,
arranged in chronological order
on the skeletal shelving. Nobody
ever asked to see them. Same for the rows
of master’s theses, bound and embossed
with the names of students who wrote
about the problem of sin in the works
of Henry James, desert irrigation,
the postmodern Jesus. I read most of them,
sometimes bored, but filled with purpose:
such effort shouldn’t die unnoticed. They need
a witness. Inside the yearbooks, the women
went from elaborate updos to bobs to
helmet hair, close-curled, then a tumble
of loose waves, then stiff, frizzed bangs
and back again. Everyone in these photograph
is dead I think as I turn the pages
and watch 1932 animate itself again,
the rugby team posed on a field
I’d photographed myself on, photographed
myself in my prom dress, the crinoline
torn, one heel breaking clean away as
I ran from the security flashlights.
I was so bored, and so alone, and so
alive with potential. I don’t get bored
anymore. Everything’s pregnant
with meaning, every minute accounted
for. God, what I wouldn’t give
to be bored. To force some strange
seed to split in a dusty, greyed-out
room, adjacent to the also untouched
shelf full of Paris Review interviews.
Closest I get now is listening to my son
recite the hit points of every blocky
monster in Minecraft, but even that
has a charge. It’s love. I stay still
and listen hard to every word.
The numbers hang before my eyes
like faces from the greyscale pages
of those old books. Maybe love ruins

the empty field, removes the fertile
void, makes the institutional beige
wall bloom like cheap wallpaper.
Can I sink down enough to hit
the bedrock, to stop, can the soil
cover me over, and how much will it take
to feel empty or heavy or blank enough.


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