Notes for My Autobiographer (and other poems)

Notes for My Autobiographer

I did. I didn’t. I did nothing.
I did what I was told.
I did wrong but in the right way,

a master assassin strong in his craft
from a distance. I did their bidding.
I didn’t know who they were

or why they wanted the child’s lunchbox
with a sandwich in it. I did little
to prevent brutality of the war.

I did my best. I did my worst.
I didn’t understand there was a difference.
I did the deed. I didn’t get caught,

but confessed to anyone who’d listen.
I did dance in the moonlight once,
a long time ago when I cared

not a whit for what night’s eyes might see.
I didn’t go into the woman’s apartment
or the man’s cigar box of a house,

although of course I did &
there, found places to hide
from cameras & paparazzi.

I didn’t disabuse them of their stories
about what I did & didn’t do,
letting them build better myths of me.

I did step into this new religion.
I didn’t believe, but didn’t want 
to know if it were true.  

Apologies If You Hear Me Cuss

the plumber says, gauging the coming struggle:
six inches between two walls behind the tub:
room for an arm, no line of sight.

I tell him, I wouldn’t trust you if you didn’t,
same as I’d promise anyone,
because sometimes shouting Fuck!

is the only answer to whatever question
the Absurd throws at us. The plumber 
says, We’re a Christian company.

We’re not supposed to. 
I hold back quips about wine 
flowing through the pipes or practice-

walking over the tide of a soapy tub.
Sure, my god gets my sense of humor
(has a pretty twisted one as well),

but this man won’t, prepared to work in shit,
not say it, mapping the Infernal maze
builders of the house created. 

He reaches, wrenching in blind faith
while my god & I are grinning,
the joke having turned on us at last

There will remain a part of me

that wishes I had been less ethical, 
not read Buber a month before we met & 
sought to practice Thou-

speak, bliss-inducing like opium sap,
enlightenment by dullness;
that would’ve said yes rather than be careful.

To think how well our bodies might have fit.
To imagine the un-undoable. Too, 
part of me sees friendship as the kiss.

Possible to hold both views
when the past snaps its fingers
as if to get my attention

while I’m observing a woodpecker mining a tree
or two jeweled fawns rocketing through the yard
faster than legs should carry them toward the future.


  • Ace Boggess is author of six books of poetry, including Escape Envy, I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So, and The Prisoners. His writing has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Notre Dame Review, Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, and other journals. An ex-con, he lives in Charleston, West Virginia, where he writes and tries to stay out of trouble. His seventh collection, Tell Us How to Live, is forthcoming in 2024 from Fernwood Press.

  • These exquisite photogravures are from one of the first series of X-rays ever produced, by Josef Maria Eder (1855–1944), a director of an institute for graphic processes, and Eduard Valenta (1857–1937), a photochemist, both from Austria. The portfolio, simply titled Experiments in Photography by means of X-Rays. From Public Domain Review