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By James Lasdun

It isn’t me, he’d say,

stepping out of a landscape

that offered, he’d thought, the backdrop

to a plausible existence

until he entered it; it’s just not me,

he’d murmur, walking away.


It’s not quite me, he’d explain,

apologetic but firm,

leaving some job they’d found him.

They found him others: he’d go,

smiling his smile, putting

his best foot forward, till again


he’d find himself reluctantly concluding

that this, too, wasn’t him.

He wanted to get married, make a home,

unfold a life among his neighbors’ lives,

branching and blossoming like a tree,

but when it came to it,it isn’t me


was all he seemed to learn

from all his diligent forays outward.

And why it should be so hard

for someone not so different from themselves,

to find what they’d found, barely even seeking;

what gift he’d not been given, what forlorn


charm of his they’d had the luck to lack,

puzzled them—though not unduly:

they lived inside their lives so fully

they couldn’t, in the end, believe in him,

except as some half-legendary figure

destined, or doomed, to carry on his back


the weight of their own all-but-weightless, stray

doubts and discomforts. Only sometimes,

alone in offices or living rooms,

they’d hear that phrase again: it isn’t me,

and wonder, briefly, what they were, and where,

and feel the strangeness of being there.


Source: Poetry (December 2009)

Poet Bio

Originally from London, James Lasdun has received numerous awards for his work as a poet, novelist, and screenwriter. In his poetry, Lasdun explores the differences between his English roots and his adopted American home, often setting his poems in wild rural landscapes or barely tamed domestic interiors. Though written in free verse, his poetry can feel formal in its use of rhyme and cadence. He has taught at many universities including Columbia University, Princeton University, and the New School. He currently lives with his family in upstate New York.

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