Poem Beginning With a Line Falsely Attributed to Voltaire

Charles Jensen

As we must write our own exile
and dream of escape, I can say

there were days, poor ones, when I wished
my proverbial (or real) plane crashed

on some well-appointed island
with Matthew Fox and another man

fighting for my allegiance or affection

Days when I cobbled dinner out of what
came in cans, what came on sale,

what once had hooves but now, pickled,
what the manager stickered

for quick sale. The light arrived each morning
like a veil I wore less for modesty than anonymity.

I didn’t want to be well-known anymore.
I wanted my Google cache back. And night

arrived with its cloak of black feathers,
flying so fast the buzz shook the neighborhood

garbage truck until it beeped and backed away.
Night arrived with smears across its face

so that I’d know it was coming to me from
someone else. So I’d know I didn’t own the night—

that the night, with unpredictable arrivals,
owned me. I wore the night like a veil across my face,

less for mourning than for privacy, my expressions
too revealing of my thoughts. I wore large sunglasses

even when overcast and gray. I wore tight jeans
because I wouldn’t be young forever.  I wore

this expression because I was born this way.
My mask is just a part of me.

Since my surgery, the seams don’t even show.