Safe behind “I told you so,”
You toil away at your exile
Insistent on your perfect futility,
Your perfect excuse.
Oh I don’t want to go through this again,
Another saboteur off
Through the bus terminal.
You think you’re traveling light,
But there’s your carrion luggage
Your dead-weight habit.
Where’s your muscle, damn it?
Because of you I ride buses all night,
Drive my car into snow banks again and again,
Take planes to frozen countries,
Show up without currency,
Speaking all the wrong languages.
Don’t you get it? I pack suitcases
Since you, fold socks over passports,
Forget my destination, my toothbrush,
I get on the wrong line
With only one shoe,
See my past go by in the window
Dressed in French finery,
Dining on Käsetorte and spumante
At little white tables
Where the sea wears the shore down to a thin, crisp wafer.
Meanwhile, back in your land-locked city,
Securely cynical in a dead man’s coat,
You play hid-and-seek with your
Befuddled past, your foggy future.
You leap from one to the other
So your feet never touch the present.
Don’t love me, don’t love me, you chant.
You want to tangle yourself in the blankets,
Wrestle romantically with your failures,
Your mock triumphs, your hidden costs.
Infatuated with irresolution,
You’ve got a bubble over your head.
If someone kissed it, it would pop,
Rain fairy tale juice all over you
And there you’d be,
A normal human being
With a man’s job to do,
The spell broken and nothing but
Work work work,
Conform to the new and undesirably familiar.
Oh God, it could mean
An investment, a risk, you might
End up on tv, or worse: content.
You might have to wait for love
Like some of us wait for the bus.
This poem appeared in Kinesis in 1991, and in the collection My Career as a Pendulum.