The Gods Who Come Among Us in the Guise of Strangers
for Charlie Miller
Late nights, with summer moths clinging to the screens & the shadows of the Old Great flickering across the tv screen, suddenly, there would be Charlie's inquisitorial head peering in the window, the shock of white hair, followed by the heart-stopping shock of greeting. Just passing through, he'd say, and--seeing as the light was on-- thought we might have ourselves a talk. Did I ever have time enough for Charlie? Usually not. The story of my life, of the one, as Chaucer says of someone, who seems always busier than he is. Then, abruptly, & discourteously, death put a stop to Charlie's visits. Summer moths collect still at the windows. Then leaves & winter ice. Then summer moths again. Each year, old ghost, I seem to miss you more and more, your youth spent with Auden & the Big Ones, words-- theirs, yours--helping you survive a brutal youth. Too late I see now how you honored me like those hidden gods of old who walk among us like the dispossessed, and who, if you are among the lucky ones, tap at your window when you least expect to ask you for a cup of water and a little of your time.
From The Great Wheel, published by W. W. Norton & Company, 1996. Copyright © 1996 by Paul Mariani. Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.