“THERE’S NO THROUGH TRAIL” —HAN-SHAN, TRANSLATED BY GARY SNYDER
/ If I Introduce Myself

If I Introduce Myself

by Ace Boggess

Say ex-con, say armed robber, say ski-
mask-wearing clown with steak knives &
bloody hands, a bloody drug-dumb history,
I will watch your divided eyes:
left angling farther left, ready to flee;
right straight, wanting to see my lips
extend the remainder of the story,
the five W’s & an H, all that’s happened since.

Say poet, say writer, say desperate
man scribbling phrases on a page
in search of truth, in search of answers,
I will note bemusement expressed 
in your unexpected half-grin 
soon restrained as you ask, 
Can you earn a living doing that? 
Have you written anything
I might have read?
 then turn away
to chase other caricatures of men.

Say unemployed to the smirk 
of your robotic I’m sorry to hear.

Say deviant, say bi, say open-
minded, say seeing someone, say
free for whatever, & I remember
you have no way to process this,
these, all the possibilities
like a hallway full of unlocked doors.

Say divorced—is that pity or contempt?

Say Star Wars nerd, say lover 
of all things rock, funk, folk,
90s alternative, modern Americana,
say I like football, I like hockey,
say zombies, dragons, spaceships
on TV, & I love the way you ease
into a conversation, relax, 
at home here more than in any
other part of me as if we’ve built 
a skyway between our isolation towers,
met in the middle with coffee &
chocolate, while I swore this is all of it,

who I am, another foolish Everyman
who doesn’t bring up Sartre
or Whitesnake in every conversation,
who speaks little at first,
then tells a joke, a clever one-liner, &
if you laugh, I know we can be friends.

About Ace Boggess

Ace Boggess is author of six books of poetry, including Escape Envy (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2021), I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So, andThe Prisoners. His writing has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Notre Dame Review, Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, and other journals. An ex-con, he lives in Charleston, West Virginia, where he writes and tries to stay out of trouble.

Cold Mountain Review is published once a year in the Department of English at Appalachian State University. Support from Appalachian’s Office of Academic Affairs and College of Arts and Sciences enables CMR’s learning and publications program. The views and opinions expressed in CMR do not necessarily reflect those of university trustees, administration, faculty, students, or staff.