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Wade Bentley

How Am I Doing, You Ask?

First of all, thanks for asking. Even though

it has become the most common greeting,

ahead of “s’up?” and “hey,” it’s important,

I think, for mammals to rub noses this way,

even from a distance, the way elephants

touch trunks and make a huffing sound

when they see an old friend, especially one

who has been through lockdowns, earth-

quakes, assorted maliciousness, and trunk

rot. And—this is new—people will actually

tell you, these days. No more, “I’m fine,

thanks.” They will tell you how long

it’s been since they’ve held a grandchild

or been waited on in a restaurant or felt

hope about the future. How they’ve gone

without teachers and yeast and Red Sox

games and peace of mind. But you asked

about me, thank you, so I’ll just say that I

am oarless in a raft on a river, where even

when I am resting in the occasional still

pool, I can hear rapids around the corner,

cataracts or chasms, for all I know. Maybe

it’s just me, maybe the rest of you have seen

a map or have a guide on board who has run

this river before, but from here, humanity

seems adrift on a bark that has lost its star.

Still, when I sat on the porch, this evening,

and the lady from down the street asked,

in fact, and moved a little closer to hear

my answer, she was choosing to tether her

raft to mine, like the kind leading the blind.

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