By William Meredith
I. Of Choice
Despair is big with friends I love,
Hydrogen and burning jews.
I give them all the grief I have
But I tell them, friends, I choose, I choose,
Don’t make me say against my glands
Or how the world has treated me.
Though gay and modest give offense
And people grieve pretentiously,
More than I hoped to do, I do
And more than I deserve I get;
What little I attend, I know
And it argues order more than not.
My desperate friends, I want to tell
Them, you take too delicate offense
At the stench of time and man’s own smell,
It is only the smell of consequence.
II. Of Love
People love each other and the light
Of love gilds but doesn’t alter,
People don’t change one another, can scarcely
By taking will and thought add a little
Now and then to their own statures
Which, praise them, they do,
So that here we are in all our sizes
Flooded in the impartial daylight sometimes,
Spotted sometimes in a light we make ourselves,
Human, the beams of attention
Of social animals at their work
Which is loving; and sometimes all dark.
The only correction is
By you of you, by me of me.
People are worth looking at in this light
And if you listen what they are saying is,
Love me sun out there whoever you are,
Chasing me from bed in the morning,
Spooking me all day with shadow,
Surprising me whenever you fall;
Make me conspicuous as I go here,
Spotted by however many beams,
Now light, finally dark. I fear
There is meant to be a lot of darkness,
You hear them say, but every last creature
Is the one it meant to be.
III. My Acts
The acts of my life swarm down the street like Puerto Rican kids,
Foreign but small and, except for one, unknived.
They do no harm though their voices slash like reeds;
All except one they have evidently been loved.
And down the hill where I’ve planted spruce and red pine
In a gang of spiked shadows they slouch at night.
I am reasonably brave. I have been, except on one occasion,
Myself: it is no good trying to be what you are not.
We live among gangs who seem to have no stake
In what we’re trying to do, no sense of property or race,
Yet if you speak with authority they will halt and break
And sullenly, one by one, show you a local face.
I dreamt once that they caught me and, holding me down,
Burned my genitals with gasoline;
In my stupid terror I was telling them names
So my manhood kept and the rest went up in flames.
‘Now, say the world is a fair place,’ the biggest one said,
And because there was no face worse than my own there
I said it and got up. Quite a lot of me is charred.
By our code it is fair. We play fair. The world is fair.