Gris-Gris, an online journal of literature, culture & the arts

Sycophants

by Tim Kahl

 

What could I say about my life

that you wouldn’t see through, Mr. Brodsky,

on your journey from the Russian steppes

to your death in an American city.

I accept the gift of my home, its dark, recessed

corners where the dust is thrilled by entropy.

I break eggs over a pan at noon and

stare at the shelf full of glasses for guests.

The jays panic when they see me

in the window as you declare

you’re the bird that needed no south.

You are the exile who is seated at

my extravagant table, furtively whispering

in my ear from May 24, 1980—

What elegant purpose does

the past’s delicate pawing serve?

 

Go on then, Mr. Brodsky, tell me more about

your days here among the bored and misled,

your complaints against that other land’s

insipid need and wasted lives.

But I too have seen lumber trucks stolen

and taken on joyrides through

the streets of Dallas, the empty stares

into bottomless cups of freshly brewed

coffee, the scuffles over where property ends.

The legion of human failings astounds even

the most downhearted historian.

Still, a life is a noble sentence, chosen for

its moments of implicit trust as much as its

crude theatre, all of us parasites

of an indefatigable sort. And the more one

eats, the more one is eaten — the more one

adventures into the stains on one’s hands,

stains that are measured for their beauty,

the more the appetite for exploiting frailty is

lessened, and the more likely we are to

be satisfied with another’s misgivings.