Mark Halliday

Excuse Me?

Excuse me? Did you say it’s all just headed for decrepitude
and being forgotten? We just get old and decrepit and then we are
forgotten, or even forgotten first and then decrepit
moving inch by inch from magazine rack to chair
at the overheated public library which doesn’t even house
the books by us and our former rivals and we just die and
decompose? Did you say that’s the deal? The only deal?
Well then screw it!
I’m not cooperating with the big stupid joke.
I won’t even try
to write poems that achieve so many layers of irony
they’re magically safe from the moths of obsolescence,
from young-lung pups in 2030 dispensing quickie dismissals—
“typical boomer bourgeois individualist lamentation”—
I won’t even bother! Why should I set myself up for that?

And I sure as hell won’t sit around at the library
trying to crank out Generous-Yet-Critical reviews
of books by my peers, or my elders, let alone my frothy juniors.
What would be the point? They’re all headed for the same
landfill full of plastic toys and smashed computers
that I’m headed for. Just as you said. All of them.
… Except maybe one—or two …

No, screw that. I’m not getting hooked again
on that beat-the-house against-all-odds teddybear dream.
No, because I have this big insight now thanks to you
and those thinkers of the Eighties you’ve mentioned who caught on

so now I’m not sweetly naïve like basically all those dead guys,
Shelley, Tennyson, Yeats, whoever. Eternity suckers.
No, I’m going—going—going going
to eat a huge portion of sausage lasagna and feel contentment.

Felt Pouch

Out of the floodbath of itching vaporous particulars of perception
I have sequestered my latest clutch of radiant-to-me unpredictably poised
            time-testingly graceful furbished bijoux

to carry them in this tiny felt pouch
to the upper level but

your book and your book and your book
are blocking the escalator

so I guess I have to take the stairs
but my knees aren’t the greatest
so maybe I will just end up down here with the losers

(unless there is a secret elevator
operated by Posterity Services)

so I’m learning to say “It’s the effort that matters”
down here where every hand flicks a keyboard
and the evanescence of renown maddens many hatters.

Mark Halliday teaches at Ohio University.  His sixth book of poems, Thresherphobe, is new from the University of Chicago Press in 2013.