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Still Life: Stevens's Wallet on a Key West Hotel Dresser


Its alligator skin, now pliant from the years
    of summoning & concealing, of the jaw
         snapping open & shut, adding & subtracting

the large oldfangled twenties—immaculately crisp,
    venereally green—& a cache of Jeffersons
         for setting down at the betting booth in Hialeah.

Chaste Diana's greyhounds: how agilely
    they bolt & quicken, rounding the palm-lined
         backstretch as their metal rabbit quarry

taunts them ever faster. Sometimes a payoff,
    sometimes not. Sometimes torts,
         sometimes the palacios of Crispin or Hoon.

The wallet hide is wafer thin. He could count,
    were he so inclined, the various archipelagos
         which map the folds, stained a tasteful oxblood.

Thus money is a kind of poetry though to be so
    its binding must be flawless, Francophilic,
         like a leather-bound Laforgue or Mallarmé,

pages rustling en plein air, a garden perhaps,
    a girl in a straw hat, mouthing some pages aloud.
         & now, a close-up of the contents: Kodak

of Elsie, her new stove agleam. Holly riding
    upon his shoulders against a backdrop
         of Connecticut snow. Calling cards with logo

of the Hartford Indemnity—the imperious stag.
    & beyond all this, the iambs to mold
         the Golem of the Major Man. Melodies

of trumps & zithers, of variegate colors
    unknown in nature. O Imagination—
         stupefyingly Grand. But the heart,

the heart is human, vexed & brittle.The heart
    will not suffice. O the twenties & the tens,
         & the lowly Jeffersons. & the tie clasp, the lapis

cuff-links. Seltzer dispenser & a decent scotch,
    The Miami Herald, dated 29 July, 1932.The Bonus Army's
         Hooverville in sepia rubble.The roiling Potomac,

an equestrian General George S. Patton, his terrible
    swift sword raised up above the dead & gassed.
         In the distance, the reflecting pool, the obelisk

& memorials. But here, in the oval glass, two soft hands
    administer pomade, a tortoiseshell comb has fashioned
         an exacting part, dabs of cologne beneath

each ear. Time for highballs as the sun begins
    its regal plummet, & the twilit palms
         commence their susurrant adagios.


David Wojahn

AGNI

Issue 86


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