By Joseph Valdez

in this dream i rise from my seat

and become a professor, standing


at the front of the lecture hall.

i’m not speaking but looking


out at all the faces, and i think

one of them is my own.


i look at myself straight in the eye

for the first time in my life, and immediately


i want to look away.

i see what others see in me—my eyes


spilling fear, the scar on my left cheek,

rising and waning like a star.


i want to look away, and yet

to see myself


in truth, shrinking

in my seat, trying


so very hard to disappear.

i want to see my skin, how it is ruptured and alive–


my hands, the veined fabric, unraveling.

all my life i have only seen myself


behind the cloak of a mirror, and now,

to finally see myself,


to finally see yourself—

the words scribbled


on your lips, your mouth.

to know that this is not a dream


because you are really here, yes,

you are really alive.

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