The little elf is dressed in a floppy cap and he has a big rosy nose and flaring white eyebrows with short legs and a jaunty step, though sometimes he glides across an invisible pond with a bonfire glow on his cheeks: it is northern Europe in the nineteenth century and people are strolling around Copenhagen in the late afternoon, mostly townspeople on their way somewhere, perhaps to an early collation of smoked fish, rye bread, and cheese, washed down with a dark beer: ha ha, I have eaten this excellent meal and now I will smoke a little bit and sit back and stare down at the golden gleam of my watch fob against the coarse dark wool of my vest, and I will smile with a hideous contentment, because I am an evil man, and tonight I will do something evil in this city!
It’s very easy to get.
Just keep living and you’ll find yourself
getting more and more of it.
You can keep it or pass it on,
but it’s a good idea to keep a small portion
for those nights when you’re feeling so good
you forget you’re human. Then drudge it up
and float down from the ceiling
that is covered with stars that glow in the dark
for the sole purpose of being beautiful for you,
and as you sink their beauty dims and goes out—
I mean it flies out the nearest door or window,
its whoosh raising the hair on your forearms.
If only your arms were green, you could have two small lawns!
But your arms are just there and you are kaput.
It’s all your fault, anyway, and it always has been—
the kind word you thought of saying but didn’t,
the appalling decline of human decency, global warming,
thermonuclear nightmares, your own small cowardice,
your stupid idea that you would live forever—
all tua culpa. John Phillip Sousa
invented the sousaphone, which is also your fault.
Its notes resound like monstrous ricochets.
But when you wake up your body
seems to fit fairly well, like a tailored suit,
and you don’t look too bad in the mirror.
Hi there, feller! Old feller, young feller, who cares?
Whoever it was who felt guilty last night,
to hell with him. That was then.