The Remarkable Objectivity of Your Old Friends, by Liam Rector

We did right by your death and went out,
Right away, to a public place to drink,
To be with each other, to face it.

We called other friends—the ones
Your mother hadn’t called—and told them
What you had decided, and some said

What you did was right; it was the thing
You wanted and we’d just have to live
With that, that your life had been one

Long misery and they could see why you
Had chosen that, no matter what any of us
Thought about it, and anyway, one said,

Most of us abandoned each other a long
Time ago and we’d have to face that
If we had any hope of getting it right.

Disgust, by Liam Rector

I was well towards the end
Of middle-age before I
Realized I loved saying

Disgusting things but didn’t
Really myself much enjoy hearing
Them. They

Go to the heart of life,
I realize (I think
Everyone recognizes this),

Since almost everyone
Can agree: Life, so
Generally disgusting.

But no one really
Wants to hear
That much about

The disgusting (except,
Perhaps, those who have frozen
Significant portions

Of their senses of humor
In the fifth grade, as I have).
Those of us who love

Verbally bringing up
The disgusting
Incessantly

Are usually prevented
From ever holding
Truly executive positions

In any organized
Situation, but there are,
Looking around I’ve noticed,

Plenty of us
Placed somewhere
In middle-management.

We are the ones
Managing things
“On the ground,”

As they say, the ground
Which is also where,
I can’t help but bring it

Up, most beasts of the field
Leave
Their ghastly deposits.

This City, by Liam Rector

for Bertolt Brecht

This apartment with no furniture,
where no one puts anything up,
where everyone schemes to get out.

This mess, to the right and the left of me,
that equation of garbage wherein matter moves its way,
the magazine sector in glanced-at demise.

This price, and that mind, and nothing to say but “violent.”
Nothing but violence in the expensive mind.
Moving from the window towards morning.

These characters at the bottom, so generous
and pathetic. Those abstract things at the top,
so mean, precise and arresting.

That god-abandoned theatre with its three-legged dog.
Staying alone to learn the lesson, the lesson being
DO NOT SPEND NIGHTS ALONE FOR AWHILE.

This program, these organizations, these gatherings
and awards. This sweat that drags it down.
These pagans with large teeth and good eyes.

The profit sector giving us images, the nonprofit
passing out handbills, and worried.
The mind that grabs after information.

The dance changed every week so no one masters
any one dance. Carrying around the little guns
and knives, the bars owned by a friend.

The same economy that binds them together
pulls them apart. The little thems, staring
into the canyon. The all of us.

A sense of proportion, in this dense heat,
hearing the tune of romance behind the psychotic.
The profit sector giving us images.

Elegance, learning, poverty and crime.
Those who smell power must dog these.
The untuning of cement into many moods.

In audacity, in hilarity, this city
plays an unbelievable organ.
How afternoon goes like the movies.

Now, by Liam Rector

Now I see it: a few years
To play around while being
Bossed around

By the taller ones, the ones
With the money
And more muscle, however

Tender or indifferent
They might be at being
Parents; then off to school

And the years of struggle
With authority while learning
Violent gobs of things one didn’t

Want to know, with a few tender
And tough teachers thrown in
Who taught what one wanted

And needed to know; then time
To go out and make one’s own
Money (on the day or in

The night-shift), playing around
A little longer (“Seed-time,”
“Salad days”) with some

Young “discretionary income”
Before procreation (which
Brings one quickly, too quickly,

Into play with some variation
Of settling down); then,
Most often for most, the despised

Job (though some work their way
Around this with work of real
Delight, life’s work, with the deepest

Pleasures of mastery); then years
Spent, forgotten, in the middle decades
Of repair, creation, money

Gathered and spent making the family
Happen, as one’s own children busily
Work their way into and through

The cycle themselves,
Comic and tragic to see, with some
Fine moments playing with them;

Then, through no inherent virtue
Of one’s own, but only because
The oldest ones are busy falling

Off the edge of the planet,
The years of governing,
Of being the dreaded authority

One’s self; then the recognition
(Often requiring a stiff drink) that it
Will all soon be ending for one’s self,

But not before Alzheimer’s comes
For some, as Alzheimer’s comes
For my father-in-law now (who

Has forgotten not only who
Shakespeare is but that he taught
Shakespeare for thirty years,

And who sings and dances amidst
The forgotten in the place
To which he’s been taken); then

An ever-deepening sense of time
And how the end might really happen,
To really submit, bend, and go

(Raging against that night is really
An adolescent’s idiot game).
Time soon to take my place

In the long line of my ancestors
(Whose names I mostly never knew
Or have recently forgotten)

Who took their place, spirit poised
In mature humility (or as jackasses
Braying against the inevitable)

Before me, having been moved
By time through time, having done
The time and their times.

“Nearer my god to thee” I sing
On the deck of my personal Titanic,
An agnostic vessel in the mind.

Born alone, die alone—and sad, though
Vastly accompanied, to see
The sadness in the loved ones

To be left behind, and one more
Moment of wondering what,
If anything, comes next. . .

Never to have been completely
Certain what I was doing
Alive, but having stayed aloft

Amidst an almost sinister doubt.
I say to my children
Don’t be afraid, be buoyed

—In its void the world is always
Falling apart, entropy its law
—I tell them those who build

And master are the ones invariably
Merry: Give and take quarter,
Create good meals within the slaughter,

A place for repose and laughter
In the consoling beds of being tender,
I tell them now, my son, my daughter.