Things you know but can’t say,
the sort of things, or propositions
that build up week after week at the end of the day,
& have to be dredged
by the practical operators so that their grosser cargo
& barges & boxy schedules can stay.
The great shovels and beaks and the rolling gantries
of Long Beach, and of Elizabeth, New Jersey,
can keep their high and rigorous distinction
between on-time and late, between work and play.
“Since you excluded me, I will represent you,
not meanly but generously, with an attention
that is itself
a revenge, since it shows that I know you
better than you have ever known yourselves,
that if I could never have learned
how to be you, nor how to be
somebody you’d like to be very near, nevertheless
you could not do without me, or keep me away.”
They keep telling me why I do what I do. I do it so that one day someone will do for me what I’m doing for her. They’re saying, then, that my motivation is to be, down the line, the recipient of the doing. According to their logic, I buy her the Times and irises for the bed table, renew the nitroglycerin and Cardia, throw in the chocolate that isn’t allowed, and, back home, scour the tub, scrub the toilet—I do these things in order to have them done for me, if not by her, who can’t do them (let’s be honest), then, second best, by someone else. They say that’s the reason I study so closely her happiness, her lack of happiness. And their gentleness in the telling, the lowered chin and eyes, the slow enunciation, the hand reaching toward my wrist—it all tells me that things won’t end where I think they will, that what I do isn’t like a mitral valve (thrust open, clamp shut), an act without volition, but is, like the refusal finally to turn away, something chosen, which may or may not do anything like what one hopes it will.