The Other Tradition

from Houseboat Days (1977)

        They all came, some wore sentiments
	Emblazoned on T-shirts, proclaiming the lateness
	Of the hour, and indeed the sun slanted its rays
	Through branches of Norfolk Island pine as though
	Politely clearing its throat, and all ideas settled
	In a fizz of dust under trees when it’s drizzling:
	The endless games of Scrabble, the boosters,
	The celebrated omelette au Cantal, and through it
	The roar of time plunging unchecked through the sluices
	Of the days, dragging every sexual moment of it
	Past the lenses: the end of something.
	Only then did you glance up from your book,
	Unable to comprehend what had been taking place, or
	Say what you had been reading.  More chairs
	Were brought, and lamps were lit, but it tells
	Nothing of how all this proceeded to materialize
	Before you and the people waiting outside and in the next
	Street, repeating its name over and over, until silence
	Moved halfway up the darkened trunks,
	And the meeting was called to order.
	                                                             I still remember
	How they found you, after a dream, in your thimble hat,
	Studious as a butterfly in a parking lot.
	The road home was nicer then.  Dispersing, each of the
	Troubadours had something to say about how charity
	Had run its race and won, leaving you the ex-president
	Of the event, and how, though many of those present
	Had wished something to come of it, if only a distant
	Wisp of smoke, yet none was so deceived as to hanker
	After that cool non-being of just a few minutes before,
	Now that the idea of a forest had clamped  itself
	Over the minutiae of the scene.  You found this
	Charming, but turned your face fully toward night,
	Speaking into it like a megaphone, not hearing
	Or caring, although these still live and are generous
	And all ways contained, allowed to come and go
	Indefinitely in and out of the stockade
	They have so much trouble remembering, when your forgetting
	Rescues them at last, as a star absorbs the night.