When the young hood snarls at him,
Sam Spade says, The cheaper the crook,
the gaudier the patter.
Does this apply to poets?
Organize your verse
around a woman
see Yeats and Dante
then throw in
the world and death.
We file into the chapel
and his verses are read to us in greeting.
Before we file out, his body is wheeled by.
The words of a dead maker prepare to go on trial
through the long seasons of rain and snow.
You, lady, leaning down
from the gold bar of heaven,
shine for me over Seventh Avenue,
get me across streets safely,
follow me into dark subways,
remind me of my buried life.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 12 Number 1, on page 59
Copyright © 2019 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com