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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, March 10, 2017.
About this Poem 

“One of the things I’ve appreciated most about moving back to New York City is the regular proximity to strangers and the attendant set of relations and responsibilities it requires of us especially during such desperate times. I had the good fortune of reading some of Ross Gay’s poetry while working on this poem, and I found his exquisitely unbounded syntax to be an inspiring model for capturing our connectedness and accountability to one another.
—Deborah Paredez

Change of Address

Rate your pain the physical
therapist instructs and I am trying
not to do what they say
women do lowballing the number
trying hard not to try so hard
to be the good patient scattered
assurances lining the aisles like
dead petals and me left
holding nothing but what’s been
emptied out obviously I am over-
thinking it when I settle on someplace
in the middle six or seven
times a week I walk past the street
vendor on Broadway and say
nothing while eyeing the same
pom-topped hat the physical
therapist asking me now
for the name of that Chinese place
where I sometimes go asking
for the patient just before me
a street vendor in need
of a cheap massage as I lay
the plain wreckage of my shoulders
in the shallow hollows
the street vendor’s body has left
on the padded table in the center
of the story I sometimes read
to my girl a cap seller sleeps
under a tree’s shade waking
to find the monkeys in the
branches above have plundered
his wares he waves his hands shakes
his fists until his rage makes him
throw his cap to the ground and the
monkeys mimic him and down
float his caps his fury finally
fulsome enough to restore
what he’s lost you’ve got to find
another way to move the physical
therapist modeling for me the poses
to mimic assuring her I won’t move
what’s left of the heavy boxes later
unpacking the last of them I learn
about the woman who once lived
here Charlotte who twisted the cap and shook
out the pills Charlotte who swallowed
and slipped into sleep in her last act
of volition here in this bedroom where
the westward windows go on longing
for dawn and I am trying to move in
a new way to pull the mess of sloughed
hair from the bathtub drain to move
in the space of another's suffering
scrub the caked toothpaste
from the sink make a home
in the space where suffering
may meet its end.

Copyright © 2017 by Deborah Paredez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 10, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Deborah Paredez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 10, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Deborah Paredez

Deborah Paredez

Deborah Paredez is the author of This Side of Skin (Wings Press, 2002).