[…] Here then shall I conclude? No!
But forth again upon the well known bull
I hereby sally, saying thus far had the work
& gnats, beetles, wasps, butterflies,
perspicuous as the nature of language
will permit, yea incomparably more so
else that painful forfeiture, & this, this
––but not now dare I longer speak of this, this.
For neither can a soul not beautiful attain
an intuition of beauty, nor a poem rise
without the aid of yeast. Therefore
we will agree to (as it were) forget this
for a moment, & another moment,
followed by an infinite regress of moments,
long enough, at least, to prove an ape
is not a Coleridge, therefore I am
Shakespeare: quod erat demonstrandum.
Or have I dreamed away my life to no purpose?
Nay, for I have never once dreamed, & this,
this, Dear Reader, is the reason I sit here
scratching my neck as if in embarrassment.
At the dinner party with Fidel Castro,
he hands me a stack of books––his poems––
including a review copy of his forthcoming
book-length epic haiku sequence. I slip away
from the crinkling of toasts & expensive
women’s laughter & ensconce myself
in the study to read by candlelight, starting
at the beginning. Five minutes in, I’m rubbing
my eyes & staring: the poems are brilliant.
And what’s more, he keeps getting better,
line after line, year after year, like Yeats.
The new book is about a blue manatee that
swims up the Colorado River. It’s as if I’m
watching a movie: I see the manatee first
in extreme long shot, looking down over
the rocky lip of the canyon to where it floats
like an electric-blue torpedo between the walls
of brown rock. Then a close up of its whiskers.
By the end, I’m weeping & need a decade
to collect myself before returning to the party,
where the salads are just now being served.
At an opportune moment I whisper to Fidel, Sir,
your work is pure genius. Who is your translator?
My first love waves to me from across the street.
It’s a crowded sort of street & she’s standing
in front of a frontier saloon, quite possibly the one
in Destry Rides Again, where Marlene Dietrich
leads other women’s husbands to ruin, like poor
Boris who lost his pants. Anyways, there she is
(my first love, not Marlene Dietrich), smiling &
waving, her hair a sort of helmet made of platinum
––her natural color, by the way––& when I finally
get there & take her shoulders in my hands I notice
her cotton blouse is held together by a safety pin.
That’s weird, I think. Has she fallen on hard times or
is this yet another stylish innovation I missed while
working on my novel?