Self Portrait as Poet
Poet, you mama's girl, so bad at volleyball, first dates, job interviews, your
albatross of asymmetry flung floorward like an eloquent glove, ironic as that yellow
pedestrian yield sign on Chestnut Street, permanently pavement-flattened.
Poet, so many hard things they said you couldn’t do that you did (make good money, live alone in the city); usual things assumed you would when you wouldn’t (drive and have babies).
Didn’t want to get married, but married you got, and the divorce? Also his idea.
Poet, there’s no ADA accommodation for it: every job you get too many promotions and stay
too long; get fired for creative excess−how is that even a thing? All devotion, no discipline.
Your right to take up space in a shrinking universe, a dying planet: dubious, and openly debated.
Poet, you manqué, jolie-laide, savant-lite, immature, oxymoronic elder, you want
to be blameless, but that ship has left its bottle; the genie: genuine, generative,
generous, curious, furious, spurious, has granted her curse to elude normality at every cost.
Poet, every potion has its antidotes we are doomed to forget: the brain is redundancy-replete, evolved toward integration, gaps filling as we speak: neurons wiring, firing fusing; time's
arrow is unidirectional, but only in the material world, and, even there, while sensitive
dependence on initial conditions sets a trajectory, and airplanes off course, mostly, they land
as planned, (almost) always. Poet, that genie was you all along.
Not dead yet is your best feature.
I wanted to be in the cafe with you by now,
or better still in your backyard swimming pool
sitting on the white ceramic steps, leaning my back
against the chrome railing, water against my legs,
the sun toasting my arms, one hefting a Perrier,
the other a mojito, listening to you laugh,
but it's my first day back to work and everyone wants
something. Meetings beget sidebars, beget consultations
and investigatory investigations and I keep reaching for my phone,
but can't even text you because my interruptions
are having interruptions and I worry you've not texted
me, sitting alone in the parking lot─on your birthday,
no less, and not long after some minor surgery─
waiting, presumably, but who knows; maybe you passed
out, your hair crumpled against the driver's side window,
or left for some childcare emergency, streaking black rubber.
Worse, I need your help on some of this stuff,
but we are trying to model worklife balance for one another,
while at the same time I am also trying to perform
the necessary role of committed professional─there's both a satisfaction
in it and self-importance to it─caring about people, helping
them feel like they are relaxing at a cafe or in a pool themselves, versus
always rushing them to get to the point already so I can decompress,
myself, like I was supposed to on vacation, and, perhaps,
did way too well or else not quite well enough,
what with, every night, sleeping with Billy Collins,
meaning his books, under my pillow.
The cats on Delos are among that island's
most domesticated full-time residents,
competing only with the goats.
They've lived there for generations, bred
for mutual comfort, fed by commuting workers
of museum and port, and anything but aloof.
The tourists who ferry over from Mykonos
and points beyond: Athens, Rome, New York;
like sailors away from their spouses or lovers,
miss their kitties back home and welcome
these soigné surrogates who greet the fleet
en masse. Acrobatic entertainment and lap-
dances ensue. I saw one tabby
crawl into a lady's handbag,
curling like a nautilus.
I have a Delos kind of cat at home myself, small
and scrappy, who grinds against her pet-sitter,
asking, you my new mama? Well-adjusted;
she’d fit right in here; loving the ones she’s with.
My other cat’s a plump calico pillow,
loyal as a royal corgi, my one woman
albatross, convinced they murdered
me, her everything, and now are coming for her.
Her photos look like hostage videos: stiff and stricken,
evincing a more obsessive bond.
Too casual or too ardent: each love
effecting the opposite in its object;
masks of comedy and tragedy, each the shadow
of the other. Who can say which is the more sincere?
Those cats on Delos: pampered, innocent, trusting, vulnerable;
unsettle me, as they may intend, Greece being the birthplace
of theatre, those cats being actors plying their old family trade,
playing the roles they were born for and have grown to love
more and more; their roles as actors playing roles:
little gods and goddesses; their audience playing
back, a closed loop, a reinforcing cycle, playing on.