by Bradley Steffens

    Stood up for lunch, I
    visit the deli anyway, order,
    and wait outside. The sun
    is hot on my arms. I roll up my sleeves.
    I love to tan, freckles
    stippling the backs of my hands,
    forearms, wrists. Hairs brightening.
    The waiter brings my sandwich:
    braunschweiger, mustard, pickle.
    I love this meal; am not ashamed
    of my heritage. I close my eyes
    and sip ice water; the sun
    glints off the surface,
    dazzling through eyelids.
    The water feels good in my throat.
    The woman at the next table
    wrestles with her newspaper,
    but I do not look. I do not care.
    I am isolated from everyone and everything.
    I feel my self collapsing
    upon itself, and I am not displeased.
    I do not need others to feel loved.
    I do not need God to feel loved.
    I love myself, and the beauty
    of knowing it makes me shiver.
    I love myself, not like Narcissus
    who could not love others.
    I think of my children,
    whom I love without effort.
    I love my parents the same way.
    And God, should He exist.
    And if, by chance, He does not
    love me, that is
    His loss, not mine.
    I smile.
    I can tell a pretty good joke
    to myself.

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