Theory of the Disappeared Man

p
o
e
m
s

who looks like my father or
his father or an ex or neighbor or
someone I’ve never met at all—

We’re facing an epidemic
and the drugs are still in clinical trials
(or would be if the doctors could find them)

but now we’ve all grown accustomed
to loss, saunter through empty rooms,
arms spread, saying, Just look

at all this space! Studies show
this is catching. The man susceptible
to a vacation or a trip to the store or

a sudden drive just around the corner
when the corner’s two counties a
country a lifetime away—

Why can’t we all just stay in our homes,
lock the doors, grow old with clasped
hands in safe quarters?

When he is antecedent to the leaving,
all evidence points in the direction
of men I think I know—he, whichever man

who lives in the in-between, the unseen
space where I can’t follow, I could
love him, have loved him before, all my life.

Maya Phillips is a poet and journalist based in New York. She is the author of the poetry collection Erou and the forthcoming NERD: On Navigating Heroes, Magic, and Fandom in the 21st Century and is the arts critic fellow at the New York Times.

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