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When I tell him I’m working on “in which” poems,

imagining alternative lives for myself,

my grandnephew Nick lights up—

What about a poem in which you are a dog?

Then you wouldn’t really write poetry at all

just bark out some syllables about the sublime

smell of the grass or other dogs’ butts

or maybe you’d scratch out the lines in dirt with your paw

for the poodles and collies to find—since they could read “dog”

and you could write “dog”—though we humans wouldn’t get it.

My dog Ringo may be writing poems for all I know

when he digs in the yard. Or maybe he howls spoken word

at Danny the mailman.

                                                What if you were an only child

and my grandmother had never been born and it was just you

getting all the toys? But then I suppose I wouldn’t be here

because Grandma wouldn’t have given birth to my mother

who gave birth to me and my brothers. Wait—I wouldn’t’ have

cousins either if Grandma had never been born

because then Auntie Kate would have never been born

and, most importantly, I couldn’t give you any more ideas

for poems.

                       What if you were made out of Legos instead

of hair and bones, plastic primary colors, wearing Lego earrings

and Lego necklaces, with a Lego birdfeeder and Lego flowers

in front of your Lego castle? Imagining myself

not quite animal or human reminds me of a joke

which is not really a joke. Why did the gingerbread man

feel queasy looking at the gingerbread house? Answer:

Because it was made of his skin. Nick thinks this is funny

but not. As we try deconstruct why, we realize it’s not

really a kid’s joke or an adult joke, just a kind of uncanny

observation, nothing like the “dad riddles” his father

finds on the internet at breakfast. I tell Nick

I had a husband with his same name before he was born—

I’ve heard of him, Nick says, just the way he’s heard

of my dad who died before he was born, before his mother

married. I tell him my own grandmother, his great-

great-grandmother was born in 1900 so I always

knew her age just by knowing the year.

Nick has no memories of the 1900s, which sound

like olden times to him—TVs with knobs to change

just a few channels and big ugly telephones

stuck to the wall.

                                     Or what if you were born a boy? 

You might be better at basketball and you’d definitely make

more money.

                           What if you lived in a world in which dinosaurs

were still alive? Would they be our mode of transportation? 

Would we ride a Triceratopss back on a giant saddle?

Could we even coexist with the likes of a Tyrannosaurus rex

or would it stomp on us? Or eat us?  And what about those

tiny dinosaurs, Yulong minis, only as big as chickens?

Would they become our pets instead of cats? This reminds me

of “Feonix/(Mystical Creature),” a sculpture I saw

at Art Basel in Miami just a few weeks before.  I show

Nick the picture of it I took on my cell.

Enrique Gomez de Molina used the remains of dead

animals and birds—beetle wings, peacock feathers,

goat skin, a resin stork bill, Macaw feathers, and pig ears

to make a gorgeous 3-d leaping beast that looked

as though it might spring from the wall. And what if

you weren’t born on earth? What if you were born

on Mars instead? You’d be a Martian and maybe

I’d be a Martian too.

                                          Did you ever wonder— What if poetry

wasn’t ever invented? What if poetry wasn’t even a thing?

Then what? What would you do? Maybe you’d live on a boat

and your job would be to take people snorkeling.

                                                                                               What if

we lived under a mean king? Or a benevolent king?

Or what if Burger King was the only kind of food in the world

and there were no vegetables or fruit left? We’d feel lethargic

and full all the time, right?

                                                       What if you were an organic

farmer? What if you sold those purple carrots? What if your

carrots were so delicious you became a millionairess?

Then I could work for you. I love digging in the dirt