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The front seats filled last. Laggards, buffoons,

and kiss-ups falling in beside local politicos,

the about to be honored, and the hard of hearing.

No help from the middle, blenders and criminals.

And the back rows: restless, intelligent, unable to commit.

My place was always left-center, a little to the rear.

The shy sat with me, fearful of discovery.

Behind me the dead man’s illegitimate children

and the bride’s and groom’s former lovers.

There, when lights were lowered, hands

plunged under skirts or deftly unzipped flies,

and, lights up again, rose and pattered in applause.

Ahead, the bored practiced impeccable signatures.

But was it a movie or a singing? I remember

the whole crowd uplifted, but not the event

or the word that brought us together as one—

One, I say now, when I had felt myself many,

speaking and listening: that was the contradiction.

Sitting with Others

Rodney Jones

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