I Am Not Wallace Stevens by Maddie Baxter

I am no Wallace Stevens. Oh, I am no Flannery. I won’t tattoo your back. I have no tools of divine permeance. I cannot strap batteries onto parachutes and hope to see your energies float. I cannot shoot water up through stems or tread lightly atop red wood roots. I had a friend recently tell me about spotted lights in the distance. I am feeling a lot of distance. I had a friend tell me why the lights from far away rotate like wheel cogs. Like there are 20 cars in the distance but none of them are moving. I had a friend stare at the Golden Gate Bridge and tell me something out there was moving but they couldn’t tell what it was. I had a friend look through glass. I had a friend read out loud to me in the dark. I had a friend tell me light from far away must travel through longer distances. I had a friend tell me that the density of air changes over distance. I had a friend tell me the sun is melting. I’m no meteorologist but I feel nothing on my skin when I reach out to catch the slough. I’m no astrologist but I don’t see stars that shine like those street cars did. I’m no David Bowie but I can paint my face like him. I’m no Portia but I can do things better than the boys can. I had a friend who wrapped her hair around her chin and called herself a man. I had a friend teach herself how to enjamb in midair. I had a friend offer to give me a stick and poke tattoo and I told that friend yes. I’m no Kat von D but I know how to wing my eyeliner. I’m no Kat von D but I have a friend who I let draw green pears on my wrist. I’m no Wallace Stevens but I have a friend who does accounting too. I’m no Shawn Mendes but I have a friend I’d take one plane for and be in the same time zone. I had a friend who told me that there is no point in living if we deny ourselves happiness and that human connection is why we are all here. I have a friend who reminds me of Madeline E from Vertigo. I have friends who dye their hair. I’m no Haley Williams but I can dye my hair too. I have friends that make my head spin. I’m no optician but right now everyone in this room I am looking at at a distance and I’m no scientist but the space between you and me is looking so admirable right now that I’m content to sit and stand watch you all dazzle right now just out my reach. I’m no Wallace Stevens but I can write poems on the bus too. I’m no London Oyster Card but I can take the Northern Line to Chalk Farm any time in my mind. I’m no Rembrandt but I know how to dip my toe into those cavernous baths and bathe. I can cut open my hand and make you look at it. I know that things in the mirror are much closer than they appear. I know that I’m going to hold a very important piece of paper and walk across a very important stage very soon. I’m no President Hatch but I guess I’ll have to shake his hand. I know that my reflection in the water is not what I look like but sometimes I like how it looks more. I am no Aristotle but I think that Happiness really is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence. I had a friend tell me that humans are most genetically linked to pigs and I am attracted to those lights maybe not those of a waiting meat grinder but the ones that are swollen and squirming outside every window that I try to squeeze myself through and I am flattered that they dance so much for us on their way from me to you.


Maddie Baxter is a 23-year-old poet and copywriter living in Charlotte, NC. She does not know how to ride a bike and never will.

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