Ars Poetica

(for the poet RD)

The blind boy taped you and we clapped
starving beak after crumbs
hoarse with cancer and one breast
wrapped like a broken arm
where the oxygen tank
stood like a green soldier

You had liked my work, fed me cake
thin, hawk nosed Italian
aristocratic, unpublished
astrologer of four thousand poems
persisting as a typist
or on tiny grants

But how could an editor have seen
your unsent books
or had they grown like bonds
when the poor poets read
on your fold-up chairs
as if failure were success

As once you ignored me for months
so that I thought of my mother
who had replayed days like war
for me and my father
or who had answered our door
with a commando’s paranoia