I had to be briefed on how to behave
here today. The arts, and people like you,
don’t generally concern me.
My first wife had a flair. I put her in charge
of décor in several buildings;
my own contribution was a taste
for black marble, gold highlights, and
the proper placement of my name.
Yet it was she, just now, as I thought aloud,
who gave me the clue: you
and art, the arts, are like women.
One may have, say, a taste
for the exotic – not full Asian, but
high cheekbones, an accent – with
occasional digressions towards the blonde;
there will always be material
to fill that taste, be shaped by it,
if one is suitably leveraged.
Love is a willingness to be hurt,
to pay – half-interest here, a resort there –
for what one has enjoyed.
In your case, also. The contempt
you bear me is ephemeral, a scent
to be displaced, transformed.
The “no” on which I’m told you pride yourselves,
based not on money but mere values, yearns
to be “yes”; it’s like the pleasantries,
the air around a deal. Ordinary people
know that if one’s rich enough
one can, if need be, double, triple, halve
how rich one says one is. They know
instinctively, if not by name,
how tax abatements, risk allowances,
debt lawyered away are wealth,
are worth. They live –
as some of you, or so I’m told, advise –
in the moment, sensually;
and at each moment they have enemies.
All nature, facing opposition, wants
to cast it out, build walls, and kill.
Think of me as an artist: I make
my listeners more intensely what they are.
I’ve no wish to seduce or to employ you.
The fans, the base wouldn’t accept it.
Satire flatters, but I get all I need
from media. And history, the great
conglomerate, fired you long ago,
which is, as far as I can see, your function.
People in my organization realize
that success is not the effect
of a cause, or laurels bestowed
on a cause; it is the cause, in either sense,
and owns no father whom it cannot use.
You wouldn’t, won’t, be happy. Still,
for me as for my fellows on the heights,
with age a desire to “give something back”
creeps in, and it’s to you I’ll give it.
Life is feeling. Victory is feeling.
Who has the strongest arms
and will to use them has already won,
and all are brothers who share that joy.
I don’t know what you’ll do with this knowledge
but I’m sure it will be huge.
Here one pays dearly
for allusion: to wood,
forest glades, craft, urgent charity,
the benign woody commonwealth.
Many have commented
on the polished presence –
like a private, desired perfection –
of each fruit and vegetable.
This sometimes has an effect,
distressing to management,
on the weak- (or strong?) willed. They
climb onto the displays,
curl up as small as they can,
and, depending on body-image and ego-ideal,
become apples, eggplants.
Tart, seedy, hairy
kiwis attract the occasional displaced worker.
Even a civilian may escape death many times,
remembering them over
the photo of a veteran with transplanted
arms (not legs, unfortunately); and
another, of Venezuelan schizophrenics
curled on a dirty floor and chairs.
But supplies of feeling (perhaps stalled
for lack of appropriations
in some private contractor’s warehouse) are
replaced by the nullity
familiar to those who serve and those who don’t
who have avoided pain.
The schizophrenics (the paper says) are mostly
aware they’re mad and that they need
drugs which are now unaffordable;
those who survive
will soon no longer know this, only that
And the soldier, new hands limp
on an oddly arranged blanket, smiles
at the attractive fiancée
beside him; and she smiles,
inspirationally, hopefully, because
what else can you do?
Author of two book-length narrative poems, THE ADVENTURE and HAPPINESS, both published by Story Line Press. A collection of shorter poems, A POVERTY OF WORDS, 2015 from Prolific Press. Another collection, LANDSCAPE WITH MUTANT, to be published by Smokestack Books (UK), 2018. Has appeared in Hudson Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Die Gazette (Munich), The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Representations, Magma (UK), Iota (UK), Bateau, Main Street Rag, Fulcrum, etc. Online, poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Allegro, Hamilton Stone Review, Diagram, BlazeVox, The New Hampshire Review, Mudlark, Occupoetry, Faircloth Review, Triggerfish, Thunderdome, etc. Adjunct professor creative writing George Washington University.