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.