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is not a man being swallowed by a fish
with eyes like eight point throwing stars
it’s a man being swallowed by a war
a man being taken into the mouth of a woman
or being swallowed by his work

it’s a man traveling far inside a book
a man being swallowed up in smoke
he swallows the smoke, that blends around him like a thought
it’s a man being swallowed by a sound
he shapes it so he lives inside a song

of a man being swallowed by his kin, his skin
a man being swallowed by the State
(Leviathan in 1948)
it’s a man being swallowed by another man
literally, eaten as a pathway to god

it’s a man being swallowed by a sight
he cannot reach, cannot touch, cannot trace

it’s a man who won’t recognize his face
who can’t fit the parts, or find the place

it’s a man in triumph over death
who laughs and beats the dust from his clothes
a man tasting dust inside the laugh

it’s a man who listens to the clock
a man with nothing to exchange
a rude man, his twin he leaves behind
it’s a man who wants to be a bride

a man being swallowed by his fault
with something old to show and new to hide

it’s a man who tries to haul the rope
a man who stooping can’t provide
a man who can’t forget his name

it’s a man who doesn’t know his worth
it’s a man being swallowed by his wrath

his youth, yield, luck, the law, his fear, the fog, his fame

it’s a man being swallowed by a coat
his father’s coat, he smells of the fit
a man being swallowed by his vows
it’s a man softly squeezing for the vein
he never finds it, he’s minding the road

it’s a man being swallowed by a room
in which he finds a man being swallowed by a fish
it’s a man who thinks what’s in a man
who exits into night at closing time
the figure of a man being swallowed by a fish.

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Joshua Weiner JOSHUA WEINER is the author of three books of poetry, including The Figure of a Man Being Swallowed by a Fish (2013). He is also the editor of At the Barriers: On the Poetry of Thom Gunn (all from Chicago). His most recent book, Berlin Notebook, prose about the refugee crisis, was published by the Los Angeles Review of Books (2016), and funded by a Guggenheim fellowship. His poems and essays have appeared in Best American Poetry, The New York Review of Books, The Nation, The American Scholar, Harvard Review, The New Republic, Brick, and elsewhere. He is professor of English at the University of Maryland, and lives with his family in Washington D.C.

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