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Cough

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I see you once I’ve got you down to size:
a two-day-stubble squatter; jailbait eyes;

the bottle-headed trophy mom; the mentor
always angling his face down from the center

of his universe to shine a light on yours.
The fated anorexic, whose allures

shimmer in the mirror for her eyes
only, denying what her denial denies.

Once you become a cliche I can hate you—
or, treat me tenderly and let me date you.

But that only retards the writing-off
that comes with boredom, amour propre, or (cough)

irreconcilable differences, i.e.,
those things about you that are least like me,

yet just slightly different, my foible’s homophone,
so in hating yours I really hate my own.

This keeps the focus where it wants to be—
On whom, you ask? Invariably on.... See?

I didn’t even have to say, did I?
I love you so much. No need to reply.

Source: Poetry (November 2012)

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This poem originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

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Cough

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  • David Yezzi’s poetry collections include Azores (2008) and The Hidden Model (2003), and his criticism and poetry have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, and Best American Poetry. A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, Yezzi is Executive Editor of The New Criterion. He has also edited The Swallow Anthology of New American Poetry (2009). His libretto for a chamber opera by composer David Conte, Firebird Motel, premiered in 2003 and was released on CD by Arsis (2007). Poet-critic Adam Kirsch, who selected Azores as one of Slate’s Best Books of 2008, noted that Yezzi’s poetry “displays a civilized mastery reminiscent of Philip Larkin and Donald Justice, which no poet of his generation can match.” David Yezzi is a graduate of Carnegie-Mellon University and received his MFA from Columbia University.

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