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So I had two lists of names for a girl, so

what. The president's allowed to

have two speeches, in case the hostage

comes home in a bag. The geese

in the metropark don't want

for bread crumbs, despite the signs

proclaiming the land provides them all

they need. I was a hard child, by which

I mean I was callous from the start.

Even now, were I to find myself after

a grand disease or blast, among the pasty

scattering of survivors, there isn't one

human tradition I would choose to carry

forward. Not marking feast days, not

assembling roadside shrines, not marrying

up, not researching the colloquialism


representing paste pearls as the real

things, not recounting how the advent

of photography altered painting,

soured us on the acrylic portrait, thrust us

toward the abstract, sent us seeking

to capture in oil that which film would

never be wasted on: umbrella stands,

unlovely grates, assorted drains, body casts.

I typically hate discussing the past

and treasure the option, rarer and rarer,

to turn from it, as when K’s twins

were born and one of them

nearly died — I don’t remember which,

that’s how much they got better.

Hard Child

Natalie Shapero

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