What was I like, before this beard?
More like, what was I not like.
Who I was depended.
I feared consensus
because stupidity lies
Among believers an atheist,
among atheists a skeptic,
among skeptics an agnostic,
among agnostics all emphatic
on the apophatic,
I laughed in my beard
at market panics,
fanaticism, Beyoncé worship.
Not that I had a beard back then.
Neither did Ahmad Rahami
on his driver’s license,
my doppelgänger Afghan,
mon semblable, I will not say mon frère.
When the pictures of him bearded,
showed up on sixty million screens,
I was partway through my third mile
on an Urban Active treadmill.
Well shucks, I thought, and yes
that quaint Midwestern word
appears in my internal monologues,
Well shucks, that bastard looks like me.
Judging from the sidelong glances
of flat-footed accountants running
for their lives
to either side of me,
I was not the only one who thought so.
The more they eyed me,
the more my face began to itch.
By mile five, this thing had bushed out,
my face a time-lapse Chia Pet,
and off the treadmill I was running
to my car for dear life
and a Schick Quattro.
I’ve tried a classic straight razor
I got off Amazon
and a Braun electric shaver, too.
The shave is not so much
not close enough as not
a shave at all, instead a kind
of endless passing of my hand
unbelieving through a hologram.
The more folks look, the more it grows.
You see it’s quite foreclose
the flux of me. I’ve gone from being
e pluribus unum
(and on that pluribus
me and me and me)
to maybe him, unknowably.
I try to talk to keep things chummy
because my silence, once the sign
of my interiority,
is now at best a sulk, at worst a seethe,
Ahmad, Amit, Rahimi, him me,
me with no way now to bare
my true face veiled beneath his beard.
I am alone here now,
among Americans a foreigner
when just last year I used to be
among Americans American.