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VS.


Smoking cigarettes with a new friend in Silver Lake,

I felt a jolt hearing him say Lorimer and Metropolitan,

then mention the bar on the corner with goblets of beer.

That life sidling its way into this one. I left Brooklyn

for Los Angeles after deliberation, traded familiar syllables

Bedford and Driggs for Virgil, Hyperion. My friend sipped

his Pilsner. I love New York, he said simply, and I love LA.

I felt like a clear glass into which liquid is poured. Of course

it is possible to hold both cities inside me. Just as it was possible

to love multiple people at once. Last fall, after the threesome

and the triangle that followed, people invariably asked

Which one do you like better? To ask was to misunderstand

my delight. Joy accrues. How lucky that new love doesn’t

necessitate an unloving. We finished our drinks, a thin ring

of foam still visible, the same shape as the tattoo that bands

my ex’s forearm. Concentric circles, all of my lives and loves.

The bartender stacked empty glasses inside one another.

The wind moved from east to west, refusing to name a favorite.


 

NATASHA RAO is the author of Latitude, which was selected by Ada Limón as the winner of the 2021 APR/Honickman First Book Prize. The recipient of a 2021 Ruth Lilly & Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, she has also received fellowships from Bread Loaf, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Community of Writers. Her work appears in The Nation, American Poetry Review, The New York Times Magazine, The Yale Review, and elsewhere.



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