Altruism

What if we got outside ourselves and there   
really was an outside out there, not just   
our insides turned inside out? What if there   
really were a you beyond me, not just   
the waves off my own fire, like those waves off   
the backyard grill you can see the next yard through,   
though not well -- just enough to know that off   
to the right belongs to someone else, not you.   
What if, when we said I love you, there were   
a you to love as there is a yard beyond   
to walk past the grill and get to? To endure   
the endless walk through the self, knowing through a bond   
that has no basis (for ourselves are all we know)   
is altruism: not giving, but coming to know   
someone is there through the wavy vision   
of the self's heat, love become a decision.

Molly Peacock, “Altruism” from Cornucopia: New and Selected Poems 1975-2002. Copyright © 2002 by Molly Peacock. Reprinted with the permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. This selection may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Source: Cornucopia: New and Selected Poems 1975-2002 (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 2002)
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