What would the world be without
poetry, he asked, and I listened,

his thin Thracian fingers plucking
lyre chords all day and night,

incessant pining that in turn upset
our men. We warned him this was

wrong, that in Ismarus, when love goes
to shit, it's over. He wouldn't listen.

He'd been through too much for this,
the guilt that frets forgetfulness.

I laughed, knowing the torments
of a backward glance, the half-empty

bed and crackling hearth, of extolling
love among the shades. My girlfriends

agreed. What worthless artist rouses
grief in everything? You get no grain

without a season's change. I told him
to ditch the lilt and reap a family.

But slow dances don't recede, he sang,
and so, we slew his serenade, then

clanged our hearts on tinny tambourines.