Thursday, January 24, 2008

These Games of Whist

All this business we’re pursuing! –
who is not what he is doing? – say,
my cat, McGillicuddy, ten, and I, fifteen,
with him alive in my encroaching
bony adolescent arms: and not to say,
back in the day, a man named Daniel –
as I crept past fifty, he to thirty-five –

wounded by our wounding charms:
you can’t replace a lover or a pet –
maybe only very thrifty poets get
the legacy of what is gone: ignoring dawn.
Me, I wouldn’t know. What it takes
to do things seems to me entirely to rest
on instinct: clearly doesn’t matter

what we think. Today I spent three
hours in a prosthodontist’s cubicle
(without a sink) while an appealing
young grad student pushed her body into
mine as she inclined with various
peculiar bright appurtenances into my
accommodating mouth. On breaks

between her probes and tugs I roved
through, hugged the pages of the latter
quarter of the nineteenth century –
Henry James was longing to go south:
to Italy, where I have been, and so had he,
but that was all a lot of foggy history:
had to be brought back to now.

My prosthodontist’s needle taught me
how. Let’s insist on knowing just
exactly what these games of whist we’re
playing gain: understand what time is,
drain this energy-and-matter thing of doubt.
Let me grasp exactly what McGillicuddy,
Daniel and my heart are all about.


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