The return

I watch the eminent mythologist
   tall, thin, casual in his thoughtful elegance
as he walks so stiff across the fall campus—
   old, erect, dignified, slow
Every prophet’s a con man
   as I’m sure you must agree
I can’t tell the difference anymore
   between my wishes and my prophecies
History is all about the return
   Still, I miss the euphoria of love much more
than I miss her, but then again, unlike some
   I never did inspire much loyalty
I experienced the usual round:
   first conversion, then faith, then the crass, innocent
blind naiveté, then certainty, followed by embarrassed apostasy
   Once a thought sticks it’s hard to dislodge
Life’s always uncertain—
   like a performer who stutters to great comic effect
She was relieved of her diplomatic post
   The committee’s report sited her aggressive, bullying
hostile and intimidating management style
   That was the problem, don’t you think— her style?
His skin deteriorated, freakish, from AIDS
   his isolation no longer manageable
He had learned early on only
   to exchange value for value
He died of that bad needle before age 20
   The line between good and evil in myth
finds its way through his human heart
   The coarse, sad river that underlies all
moved its way through him
They entice the “sex offenders” and send them to
   The United States’ gulag
for crimes they did not yet commit
   After their long sentences expire they’ll keep them locked up
for treatment by thoughtless so-called psychologists—
   these are grave mental defects that can’t be cured
To a Southern, dumb (but I repeat myself)
   North Carolina, cracker guard
that blood in his urine tells us he’s a malingerer
   He’s just a “sex offender” so let’s let him die
This job’s a bore sometimes, such a chore—
   Cruel laughter can’t begin to provide the right distance
Her father was a stone cold drunk
   He made it his task to cook her dinner every night
Then he’d go off to his room alone to drink
   Don’t think that she’ll ever get over it
That river’s too rocky and wild
   We never “get over it”
We have these uncertain memories
   twisted by time and prejudice
All species have cognitive limitations—
   pleasure’s a kind of intense itch and scratch
My problem’s not in the descent but in the ascent
   in the return, in the coming back
It grew to eight feet long in the darkest deep
   had baleful recessed eyes,
a shovel shaped snout and a wide
   snaggle-toothed mouth
We live hard between these dangerous dark jobs,
   down to the bottom deep dives
He achieves, this pianist, by touch alone
   a fine, subtle contrast of timbre, color
He’s pessimistic because
   only a pessimist truly loves life
She’ll accept your good gifts because she likes you
   Naive, always guileless and straightforward with him

-January 20, 2013-