Itís the testimonial you give
at the retirement party
which ends on a poetic flourish --
It is Margaret you mourn for --
which seems suddenly, entirely wrong
for a bon voyage,
what were you thinking?
Itís the worst move
at the father-son basketball game,
the clumsy blocking foul
on someone half your size.
Or itís in the p.p.s.
of the letter youíve written her,
the joke about the dog
which repulses her forever.
What can you say of them,
such moments which stay with you
like the faintest music?
Or of these new ones about to arrive
like a hundred trumpets
blaring your wrong inflections?
"Youíve put on weight!" you blurt out,
meaning you were too thin, you look terrific,
"Your hair is such a gray," meaning
look at the lovely color youíre haloed by
though all youíve managed to do
is part the river of friendship,
drowning all good wishes in your wake.
Better not to speak, your other voice says,
better to sit with your hands in your lap
watching the perfect dancers swoop and turn
under the glinting chandelier.
And you do. Until life
in her evening dress
romps about you again
forgetting who you are,
forgiving you the stained tie
or the champagne glass
sticking out of your pocket
or the way you keep calling her
Marguerite, which she seems to like
though itís not her name, or a name
sheís ever been called.