In the ‘Singles’ restaurant,
I catch myself in the sheen
coming off my neighbour’s dinner plate:

I’m a magnet in search of iron;
a bird of paradise
stripped of its feathers.

Once I could wax up my ears,
tie myself to the mast,
and still the Sirens would find me.

‘Your face has an interesting past.’
My life-fast is interrupted by
an emissary from The Book of Disquiet.

‘A poet or assassin,
I can’t decide which.’
‘I’d kill to be the former,’ unspoke I.

Not one to converse with mirages,
I let things slide.
I always let things slide.

Pay your bill, say goodnight
to the machine at the cash till.
Promise nothing by promising all.

Before the bourgeois bulldozers came,
leveling plumb line, sea swell and horizon,
you could send your alias out to work.

Now everyone wants the real you.
I yearn for the inauthentic pass;
a name that would inspire doubt;

a mark that would leave no trace;
a road sign’s inverted arrow.
I don’t want to be known as 0 anymore.

James Dowling hails from England and teaches English Language and Literature at a university in Seoul, South Korea. Several of his poems have appeared in Eunoia Review. James is spending most of lockdown misreading books and misremembering movies.

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