Joke by Maggie Smith

In what I think is a dream,
I look at some manifestation of the past

& say, I know you’re not real. Someone has to.
As most dream-things do, the past

shapeshifts, reconstitutes itself with new
eyes & a new haircut—the past

made over—& then I forget its name.
I forget what I’m doing with the past.

What is that joke about the river?
It’s not really a joke, no more than the past

is really past—the one about water never
being the same water. As it flows past,

the river’s current—now that’s a joke—
is always flowing now, now, now. Past

seven, when I wake from what I think
is a dream—a dream where I tell the past

the truth about itself—it is the present
as it always is. There is no past.

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