Sunday, August 19, 2007
Everyone thinks you ought to have it made,
but you’ve worked for your place in the shade;
you’ve grown accustomed to the general freeze,
and you don’t relish sitting with the other hacks
forking the Kevlar chicken and flaccid peas,
knives politely in the next diner’s back,
while some connected gusher thanks the Lord
and every living creature in the trade
for his third Children’s Coffee Table Book Award,
which cost his agent more than the project paid.
But you go. And inevitably comes the year
when it’s you who’s got to stand and be sincere,
recite for the assembled belly-aches
your modest, grateful, nonchalant address,
perhaps read them a few short takes
from the latest pound of flesh you’ve brought to press,
while home in your kitchen the knives sing in the drawers.
And after the dim applause and the fishy shakes,
you go home to begin a study of the floor,
glad of the murmur the refrigerator makes.
Still, there’s almost always a new day,
another crisp tomorrow on the way
in which you might reclaim some self-respect
by dint of your customary industry.
But laurel’s thornier than rank neglect:
you find your readers sitting on your knee.
The one thing that keeps you from the drink
is someone in a bare and distant country
who might look up from a winter page and think,
“I know this guy. But how does he know me?”