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A Stranger Sestina

By: Adam Willis

Published for the 2023 Spring Magazine

Hours have passed now. The rain won’t stop.
Dimes and nickels—silver against the darkness—pelt the glass
windshield as the neon glow of the city swims like colored koi fish—like memories
in the eternal liberation of a perfectly black mirror.
People who idle past in their stick shifts aren’t tangible—they aren’t real;
they come into being when I stare at them, and even then, I see a stranger.

I started reading this novella by Camus titled The Stranger.
Quotes are always popping into my head; I can’t get them to stop.
“That doesn’t mean anything” means a lot to me—it feels real
and rational—clear and crystalline, like glass—
reflective, like the fresh polish on a mirror;
it outlines the absurdness of my memories.

And I’ve come to understand the volatile nature of those memories:
Listening to that album by Joel—The Stranger,
analyzing every imperfection—every freckle, mole, burn scar—for hours in the
pounding headaches that never seem to stop,
midnight, drinking Diet Coke out of a frosted glass—
that all doesn’t feel real.

And you can’t convince me that I am real.
What tactile quality legitimizes my memories?
What about this existence prevents my mind from fracturing like glass?
I am, in every way, the stranger—
it makes no difference if my life continues or comes to an abrupt stop.
Eternity is an endless hallway in both directions—a mirror within a mirror.

Speaking of reflections—I’m looking now in my rearview mirror;
traffic lights flash on the wet pavement. For a moment, they feel real.
I hope that the reds and yellows and greens will never stop
their beautiful glow—they give me hope for my memories.
Maybe I’m not a stranger—
maybe my dream isn’t fragile like glass?

I remember August—we were beyond this wall of glass.
The warm feeling you gave allowed me to finally look in the mirror.
I never knew the definition of the word “stranger”
and everything was undoubtedly real.
There’s hot wind and monarchs and dandelions somewhere in my memories;
there’s that lightning smell—the thunder—the hunger to never stop…

But now the rain will never stop. Now, I’ll always be a stranger
to myself—and to you, I’m transparent, like glass. I’m ashamed to be real—
to have these memories—to reflect nothing, like a broken mirror.

Return to the 2023 Spring Magazine

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