Five portraits

A good way to play me,
she thinks, is to seem
to lavish affection and love
whenever we’re alone
That enthusiasm, that sexual yearn, that passion—
like a college freshman’s fraught,
anxious, anticipation in the newness here
He sees the fall trees, their wild leaves,
their blatant fiery colors
What good new thing, in this fine place, for me?
You see, I never could master fully the wily arts
of manipulation and so it’s easy then, so easy
for awhile, for her to play me
His music is aggressive
His comportment was bland
He was famous but we left him alone
He appeared to us cool, brutal, elegant,
with reserves of power
(a fighter’s inner engagement)
understated, searing, cool
Everyone, no matter what bad they do,
thinks themselves good at the roots
The world rarely takes us at our own
valuation, and you, you may believe that
future generations won’t agree
He excuses the bad and avoids our hurt feelings
He affected a geniality he wished to feel,
offset by a diffuse, general distrust and rage against
the strangers with whom he came in conflict
He wanted, he professed, to participate in
our one “eternal mind”
He would never disparage an honest gift
“Nothing that happens to us has much
cosmic significance”
He would never mistake indifference for hostility
You were, in your stay here, forthright, smart,
steady, and a little callow, no not callow, but naïve
The follies we nurse make,
we can hope, our realities endurable
My college friend, Sand, (yes that
was really his name) played the oboe pretty well
He dropped out of our college after a year and left
New York because it’s so unfriendly and anonymous
But get this—Sand said that if, as artists,
we really care about the work then
we should have the right to fail at it
he’d never become petty or self-seeking—
troubled by life’s trivia, fussy or small-minded
Could he, nevertheless, hire himself out
to rich corporations directed by Philistines who’d
insist that he write pernicious, persuasive nonsense?
Of a youngish attorney with oily slick
black hair recently hired and abruptly fired
(Why did our so savvy named partner hire him?)
who would remark when I’d eat a big cookie
“That’s a really big cookie”
who on his own and without consultation
agreed to the firm’s indemnification of his
sleaziest client (we eat what we kill here),
old Al K (whose name was on the door)
said, “Of course I had to let him go
The damn fool didn’t even know
he’d done something wrong!”
In fact, we leave little to nothing behind us





-January 23, 2016-