It’s a wave, isn’t it? Not a particle.
A fresh, cool wave, so why am I flushed
and not washed? Why dirtier than before?
1. Etymology
On the subject of our names.
They’re so embracing,
thinking they’re all us
and swallowing themselves
into our nausea.
Yet we never quite die on the spot.
We put off being what we’re called,
we take the hint.
Time is never wasted.
It is always spent.
2. Teleology
Sheer fabric trailing through 4 a.m.
I thought it was opaque and earlier.
3. Mathematics
I know you know I know.
And the mirror multiplies inside.
The world is no bigger, but next time
do the math,
because I wanted to know none
of what I now know twice.
4. The Principle of the Borg
Saying “There’s no one like me”
accomplishes the exact opposite
of what you mean.
It is true only insofar as it is true
for everyone equally.
So it means you are not special
in any way. Which should be enough for you.
5. Documentary
This clothing, a maladaptive wrapping,
cuts me up. I am a vignette,
floated knowingly
since I pulled myself through myself,
like a unitard. Too many eyeholes
have been cut and pieced together
to make flesh less various with others.
6. Medicine
The cure for embarrassment
is substitution.
Strap, don’t pluck.
Baldness makes headlines.
Use grass. Use less.
Shorts under your skirt for recess.
Redo the surfaces of your wrong turns to make
taking them smoother in the future.
7. Cosmology
Things are less embarrassing
at the cellular level. Remember?
We were a whole part of the universe
before Mother busted the party.
Before we were ourselves.
Now, like dirty soap, we
attract what we repel.
8. Apology
Even the clumsiest fate is perfectly shaped,
so the view took over looking
but the sweetest thing I’ve ever known
is obscene with a beautiful
sugar rotted down to its truth.
Loving you a serious accidental shame
and day flatulates into night,
trips and falls in front of millions
into morning.
In thrall to this pocus:
the end of fear starts
with such an annihilating blush,
with such a stutter.

Brenda Shaughnessy, "Embarrassment" from Human Dark with Sugar. Copyright © 2008 by Brenda Shaughnessy.  Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press. www.coppercanyonpress.org
Source: Human Dark with Sugar (Copper Canyon Press, 2008)
More Poems by Brenda Shaughnessy