If I Introduce Myself

by Ace Boggess Issue: 2022 Special Issue on Identity


Say ex-con, say armed robber, say ski-
mask-wearing clown with steak knives &
bloody hands, a bloody drug-dumb history,
I will watch your divided eyes:
left angling farther left, ready to flee;
right straight, wanting to see my lips
extend the remainder of the story,
the five W’s & an H, all that’s happened since.

Say poet, say writer, say desperate
man scribbling phrases on a page
in search of truth, in search of answers,
I will note bemusement expressed 
in your unexpected half-grin 
soon restrained as you ask, 
Can you earn a living doing that? 
Have you written anything
I might have read?
then turn away
to chase other caricatures of men.

Say unemployed to the smirk 
of your robotic I’m sorry to hear.

Say deviant, say bi, say open-
minded, say seeing someone, say
free for whatever, & I remember
you have no way to process this,
these, all the possibilities
like a hallway full of unlocked doors.

Say divorced—is that pity or contempt?

Say Star Wars nerd, say lover 
of all things rock, funk, folk,
90s alternative, modern Americana,
say I like football, I like hockey,
say zombies, dragons, spaceships
on TV, & I love the way you ease
into a conversation, relax, 
at home here more than in any
other part of me as if we’ve built 
a skyway between our isolation towers,
met in the middle with coffee &
chocolate, while I swore this is all of it,

who I am, another foolish Everyman
who doesn’t bring up Sartre
or Whitesnake in every conversation,
who speaks little at first,
then tells a joke, a clever one-liner, &
if you laugh, I know we can be friends.

Ace Boggess

Ace Boggess is author of six books of poetry, including Escape Envy (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2021), I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So, andThe Prisoners. His writing has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Notre Dame Review, Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, and other journals. An ex-con, he lives in Charleston, West Virginia, where he writes and tries to stay out of trouble.