Customs – David Sullivan

End-of-Days writes my full name,
hands me my life back, stamped.
The mug shot grimace briefly resembles
mine. At each bored checkpoint I’m asked
my place of residence until the syllables
sour in my mouth. I rat-a-tat my dates
of birth and death and am waved on.
Checkpoint Charlie’s suspicious of a
Palestinian carrying two meshed bags
for groceries. A Sioux stands with arms
raised above his head in the airport
security’s high-tech walk-in closet.
Behind him the Aborigines and Pidgen’s
stand with their shoes in their hands.
Even in this undistinguished sea some
are caught in nets, some swim free.
I try to magnify every indignity, prod
myself towards righteous anger, but
I’m all show without substance, player
without audience, a dimestore novel
dressed up in a too-fancy dust jacket.
I stare out past shipping bubble wrap
and try to imagine I’m one with anyone.
Unwrap me, crack my spine and hold
me accountable for all I haven’t done.
Place these words in your mouth, speak
me into existence, cross me off your list
like an undelivered kiss. I’m here,
under your thumb. Fingerprint my face
like a Saul Steinberg portrait of all our
anonymity so I can be disgorged into
this populace city and you can turn
towards your next blank customer.





David Sullivan

David Sullivan
David Allen Sullivan teaches English and Film at Cabrillo Community College in Santa Cruz, California, where he edits the Porter Gulch Literary with his students, and serves on the Veterans Task Force Committee. Three poems from his first book, Strong-Armed Angels, were read on The Writer’s Almanac by Garrison Keillor. Every Seed of the Pomegranate was about the Iraq war in multiple voices. Black Ice is a book of linked poems about his father’s dementia and death, and an award-winning chapbook came out recently, Take Wing. He lives with the historian Cherie Barkey and their children, Jules and Amina Barivan. His website is:

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