“The Ex-World” by Molly Peacock

Molly Peacock


Death had seemed so abrupt to X,
like a TV show she loved being cancelled,
or a pet lipstick color discontinued.

Of course X knew these were minor examples!
Their minority let X think about death.
By now she’d lived through so many

new shows just a hue different from old ones
and new lipsticks causing a shade of mourning
for colors that would never be made again,

at least in her lifetime, she thought,
the end isn’t sudden at all—
why, it begins back with the first x-ing out.

Death wasn’t an ending, it was a transfer!
Cancellation by discontinuation,
she was crossing into the next world.

Disappearing through the border was
a bit like a passport check.
“What does the X stand for?”

the officer usually said at her customs-of-the-mind,
and she made up all sorts of names:
Example, Exonerate, Exfoliate.

Then the officer would point to the Exit
and watch her go. She seemed to dematerialize,
but instead made an entrance on the other side

in an alternate shade of her self.
X cared just a bit less about this world
each time some little thing she loved got crossed out.

Some tiny cells of her own disappeared
with the end of “Zoom Maroon” and “Toast of New York.”
Like Get Smart and The Avengers

her re-makes were never quite the same.
Yet fading piqued her curiosity:
Ex means examine, too,

each layer peeling off
its own thinny-thin translucency
like values of moonlight.

Which do you prefer, the sun or the moon?
Which one, LIFE or DEATH?
The thing clearly seen—or the thing in mystery?

Well, it’s time for mystery, X thought,
even though you’ve always moved past the spot
by the time you’ve marked it.

from Rattle #35, Summer 2011
Tribute to Canadian Poets


Molly Peacock: “This poem takes its imagery from my continual border crossings from my home in Toronto to my former home, New York City. I lead a double life, in both literary and literal senses. Same language. Two entirely different cultures! The inter relationship constitutes an ongoing Compare/Contrast essay as I write.” (website)

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