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.