(Louis Hansel/Unsplash)

There you were, last year, just inside the door,
hand raised like a happy Etruscan lord
reposing on his limestone tomb.
Bunched tweeds, blue work shirt, camo backpack,
squinting behind dense granny glasses...
You saluted across Le Pain Quotidien
as if, just arriving, you were about to leave.

We ate skillet eggs and drank red wine at noon,
while you, the stevedore poet, flirted with
our hipster waitress. An hour ago, we were
college greenhorns in Horn and Hardart’s,
crazed by writing, Shelley’s anarchies, Houseman’s
sensuous rue, automat lemon meringue pie
and tuna sandwiches and aspiration and nerve.

These weeks, you’re in your other chair,
rigged with fluid lines and I.V. ports,
flesh lightly pinned to cheekbones and skull.
We make crass jokes about ambition now.
What’s left to want? What’s left of want?
You cough up a laugh: “Welcome to my way out.”
Yet you’re still writing it, writing it.

W. S. Di Piero’s recent books are a volume of poems, The Complaints, and Fat: New and Uncollected Prose.

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Published in the March 2023 issue: View Contents
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