I love the decentralized subway system.
It goes from California to Laos.
In California, there are connected windows.
In Laos you lose those, but they do have apes.
ON THE LOSS OF A FINGER
There is no way to describe how sad
I was when I discovered my fingers
had fallen off. I mean, you find one
stub in the bed sheets—okay, you
can live with that. But three, four,
seven? And this morning, the tenth?
It was like when my toes fell off,
only worse, because I didn’t use toes.
What are toes? But I had even named
my fingers: Edith, Marlene, Gretchen,
Bethany, and so on. Gwen. Ten
was named Marylou on account
of her inordinately diminutive size
and occasional bouts with dyspepsia.
When I found Marylou this morning
I laid her upon an unused limestone
soap dish in a shroud of serviceberry leaves
and sprinkled her in body powder
and prayed, then, for her quick ascension
through perdition, manual labor,
and through the finger puppet angels
up into her final glorification,
no longer tiny or sour-stomached,
but long, smooth, and incredibly sexy,
crowned with a perfect halo of a nail.
So what if you never get that nose job
and you die with a big nose.
You once owned a Bose stereo
and appreciated its room-filling audio.
So what if you only like Rammstein,
Bjork, and one song by Falco.
Let’s talk about the many things
you’ve built with Legos in your time,
objects d’art you’ve constructed
out of Lego Blocks that came
as close to the sublime as, say,
Pollock and de Kooning combined.
Let’s talk about jettisoning
the present and not worrying,
for now, about the size of your nose.
You used to be a docent, and a good one;
you used to be what one might call
a cleric. Frankly, you used to be
a lot like Robert Herrick.
So what if neon signs distracted you
and you plowed into a median
and now no longer know the difference
between tubes, be they boob, inner,
or fallopian, and so what if something’s
on the tip of your tongue but you can’t quite
put your finger on it—because when you’re
dead you won’t even be able to put
your finger on the tip of your tongue.
So yeah, let’s talk about Bishop Spong.
You used to be his right hand man,
his guy Friday—am I wrong?
You were kind of a jetsetter,
a member of the weirdo fringe,
a spiritual minx hopped up
not on jalapeño poppers and happy
hour cocktails per se, but on prayer—
sola fide. So what if you went
prematurely gray; it was just
around the temples. So what if in
the snow-bound cathedral of old
age your imagination returned
to courtship’s secret garden complete
with hidden fountain, causing your resolve
both to stiffen into action
and to harden into a trouser mountain.
Time may bring oldness, but youngness
is not necessarily better.
Ask cheddar. It’s all good. Or, to wax
cheesy, it’s all gouda. On that note,
so what if you love wordplay so much that
sometimes you forget to brush your teeth,
and that, to compensate for this,
you have begun brushing them
at inappropriate times, like during the opera
or within five feet of an active mime.
“Never neglect the little things,”
a character in a famous play once said;
and “one should never be where one
does not belong,” sings Dylan in a song.
So let’s talk about your need to heed
Dire Straights’ advice to “walk away,
walk away,” or at least to scream
“walk this way” with bad eighties hair.
Let’s talk about The Thomas Crowne Affair.
You used to be a playwright, didn’t you?
Or maybe I’m thinking of a character
based on you in a play that was published
after your death by a playwright
who’d purported to have written
a history but had played fast and loose
with facts no one else really cared about—
or knew. Anyway, you used to be you,
and now you’re a shell of your former self.
You’re like a badly drawn cartoon elf
on the studio’s cutting room floor,
but so what, because you still have eyes,
man. She’s gorgeous. She loves you.
To everyone else, the next step
is obvious. You grab her by the purse
straps or the shopping bag and lay
a smooch on those carnivorous lips.
You used to be good at caressing
a woman’s hips. What happened?
The condo and Ferrari proved
too much for you? Silly old corkscrew!
What’s gotten into you? Sitting up at night
in a wingback chair before a fire
opening old bottles of wine
as if they’ve never been opened before.
So what if you’re still working on the same
portrait of Dumbo you’ve been working on
since forever. So what if you’re not clever
or an inventor or whatever.
It don’t make no nevermind.
You were once a diamond: you shined
so bright that many of us left
your penthouse parties partly blind
with images burned on our retinas
of you styling various hats, and the sound
of your calliope-like voice
echoing in our minds. You, in your B.U.M.
sweatshirt and sweet mop of hair
calling out round after round of liqueur
shots, instructing a flunky to finish
lacquering a chair or something.
But so what if you used to be “the man,”
and now you are merely a square.
Every great life wrecks at odd angles,
just as every flag loses its spangles
in time. You might be just the square
to right the wrecked angle
or the wheelwright to round it
or cockswain to steer it, by degrees,
away from senility’s awful shoals.
Which, if I’m not mistaken,
lie just off the coast of Wales.
Whatever. Get your corduroy coat
and your tattered old train case
and prepare for a trouncing.
And remember: don’t start punching
until the thing stops bouncing.