Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


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.

Credit


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.

Author


Paul Mariani

The oldest of seven children from a working-class background, Paul Mariani was

Date Published: 1996-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/gods-who-come-among-us-guise-strangers