Self-Portrait as Purloined Matter

Have you ever raised your hand
to answer a question at a meeting

then have someone else echo exactly
what you just said, and seen him get

acknowledged, even as the group
of women nearest you makes sounds

of protest? “But that’s what she
just said!” Have you ever worked

for the same token or reward harder
than the rest of your cohort,

then been told in confidence
that the senior person on your

committee, the same one who always says
so affably How’re you doing, dear?

whenever you cross paths in the hallway,
was the only dissenting vote in your

promotion? And I’ve tried to call estranged
kin using the same numbers over and over;

sent text messages day after day, getting
neither confirmation nor answer, even if I

can tell by the change in the color of the icon
that my attempts have been seen. I’ve been told

in all these it’s probably a side effect
of competition: few resources to go around,

so only the ones with the strongest guts prevail
in the face of heated burn or cool disdain—

Is that like the gangly seabirds I’ve seen coming
inland, encroaching on smaller birds on the river’s

dried-up flats, forcing them to spit up the catch
that just moments ago felt solid and salty as luck?

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