Jan/Feb 2022 • Vol. XLIV No. 1 PoetryJanuary 11, 2022 |

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

and yet, even so, here we are, at the precipice of the new century: century of wildfire, century of war and perfect technology of war, where I live a happy life, where my love bakes bread in the morning, where the sunlight dances in her hair and my friends, my friends— but it’s the edge of the century, remember? And you, sir, are my fifth-grade teacher. A man, not like any man I’ve met. I imagine, though can’t know, you alone, weeding the garden of your mind: little rosebush, daffodil, dogwood tree run amok in the yard, grey cat, green eyes, crypt in the center where lie your dead and beautiful friends, your friends who are so far from the life you have now, where you are, remember, surrounded by children whom the news of the new president does not touch, not yet, not, at least, in the labyrinth where they are the thing at the center, one weeping eye, matted fur, sir— it’s worse than you imagined. The birds outside are singing. And I understand it now, where yo

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Cameron Awkward-Rich is the author of two collections of poetry—Sympathetic Little Monster (Ricochet Editions, 2016) and Dispatch (Persea Books, 2019). Presently, he is an assistant professor of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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Jan/Feb 2022 • Vol. XLIV No. 1 PoetryJanuary 11, 2022 |

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

and when I surfaced from the latest weather—torrent of bad wind shuttering the blinds, so that I— or something like me—was lost and wandering again the stale room where I fear fear was born, though how it is impossible to say—when I surfaced you were talking about children. A man, barely not a child, was dead. Murdered, though it was months already between the scene and that name for it. The only way I know to outlast history is running. So that’s what I do. I run. Even though even this action is a pantomime through which history, we all know it, speaks. A man, particular, is dead. And in the general body, the particular now, I am careful to keep my distance from the woman who is careful to smile at me in turn. When my father did not die, I didn’t know. Nothing happened. And when he told me, years later, when the scene found its name, I found something so like certainty it must have been. You don’t have to is what I heard him say to me. Live. You don’t h

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Kenyon Review logo
Cameron Awkward-Rich is the author of two collections of poetry—Sympathetic Little Monster (Ricochet Editions, 2016) and Dispatch (Persea Books, 2019). Presently, he is an assistant professor of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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