"Still Life With Moving Figure"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Oct. 1 2002 1:09 PM

Still Life With Moving Figure

Listen to James Richardson reading this poem. Was it a Twilight Zone, or what, where time stopped for everyone but him, and he galloped, dismayed and free, among the frozen traffic, the on-tiptoe crowds, manikins they looked like, or photos of themselves? It was a kid's dream, I knew, even as a kid: he could have whatever he wanted, the money, the food, and read with his soft flash all night long, and longer, under their swelling tailoring, whatever secrets he could learn alone. (Weren't their eyes moving a little? and if they woke up, he better not be anywhere he wasn't supposed to). But here's what physics says: if time had really stopped, those bodies would be less pierceable than stone, stone hems unlifting in a still wind, also stone, that would lock him in place like the rest of them. That's what he's finally getting, wide-eyed, slowing, when he stares straight out at us, the five of us, still there after all these years, motionless in the gray gaze of TV like stones in a soft strange water, seeing at last the hard thing he was seeing.

James Richardson's most recent books are How Things Are and Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays. He teaches at Princeton University.

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