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Doing Lines at the Cocktail Party


October and even the air's professorial,
the day's deathlecture droning down in gray.

         · · · ·

Pleasure, too, has its puritans.
its fanged savorings:

no meal so mediocre
that she'd allow some comfort in shared complaint.

         · · · ·

—oh him and his puny glooms:
the dainties a dancer needs for nakedness to even be a thing.

         · · · ·

Some intimate distance in the not-quite-light,
bombed-out small talk, skeletal chuckles:

two people grappling with the memory
of having grappled.

         · · · ·

A coolness through which one nevertheless sweats,
like a friendship distance has thinned.

         · · · ·

A sadness blaster, she said she was, scouring the house
with a kind of sexual psychic pesticide—
not altogether unavailing, I have to say.

         · · · ·

That air of creepy connoisseurship about him.
I felt as if I'd been sipped and set back down
by one who needed a moment to name the vintage.

         · · · ·

I too annihilated all the little envies.
I too intuited the glorious swell

of Lady Marbury's marberries—
and looked away.

         · · · ·

. . . something about him at once so consolingly formal
and devastatingly irrelevant, like a mortuary fern . . .

         · · · ·

Capacity for happiness. He actually said that.
He'd discovered in himself a capacity for happiness.

It was as if some immense idiocy
had come to complete fruition in him,

like the century plant
that every hundred years flowers and fouls the air

with its ironic resplendence,
its stalk of skunk.

         · · · ·

The sad panache and fluent gloom of the golden boy gone old.

         · · · ·

And her, the earth of her, all salt and tang, you could serve her on ice.


Christian Wiman

The Arkansas International

Fall 2017


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