Two bourbons past the funeral,
we were reading from the thin
old books of the old poet, past old now,
and another old poet fumbled
to his favorite poem. Where was it?
Not this book, but that, and then
he was reading, his voice reverent
and sure, until he caught on a word
like a coat on a barb, and hung there,
a low moan ululating on a long vowel
for the friend he knew almost entirely
from these words and his own voice
reading them. On and on the soft
moaning rose and fell, until he tore free
and snarled, “I told you not to do that.”
“Yes, you did,” he said, and turned again
to the old poem, reading as if he’d written it,
a small change here, a larger there,
correcting the fictions and false
felicities of his youth.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 31 Number 5, on page 45
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