Survivor Guilt

Ron Padgett - 1942-

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.

More by Ron Padgett

Fairy Tale

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!

Poet as Immortal Bird

A second ago my heart thump went
and I thought, "This would be a bad time
to have a heart attack and die, in the
middle of a poem," then took comfort
in the idea that no one I have ever heard 
of has ever died in the middle of writing 
a poem, just as birds never die in mid-flight.
I think.

Words from the Front

We don’t look as young
as we used to
except in the dim light
especially in 
the soft warmth of candlelight
when we say 	
in all sincerity
You’re so cute
and
You’re my cutie.
Imagine
two old people 
behaving like this.
It’s enough 
to make you happy.