First Person Singular


“Young Alexander conquered India.
He alone?”
–Bertolt Brecht

When Americans say “I am remodeling my house”
they don’t mean personally—
they have help, interior designers, plasterers and sheet-rockers
to do the work
when they say
“I am building a house”
they are not actually building it
they may not even have started
it may be a dream

and when they say
“She has buried three husbands”
it is a matter of form
it doesn’t mean that she laid them in the ground herself
one after the other
although it speaks for her resilience, her instinct for survival—
there would be priests, pall bearers, cemetery workers
and it would happen over time

the English lost their false modesty when they came to these shores
—those that survived that cold confrontation—
and I, too, will lose my diffidence
adopt the heroic style, the royal “I”—
no longer ashamed of my cravings and accomplishments

I had hovered over my possessions like a ghost—
now they are mine!
I will stake my claim to this earth
and build on it a house
and it is I who will go down in history


Stuart Dodds

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