The Gods Who Come Among Us
In the Guise of Strangers
for Charlie Miller
Late nights, with summer moths clinging
to the screens & the shadows of the Old Great
flickering across the tv screen, suddenly,
there would be Charlie's inquisitorial head
peering in the window, the shock of white hair,
followed by the heart-stopping shock
of greeting. Just passing through, he'd say,
and--seeing as the light was on--
thought we might have ourselves a talk.
Did I ever have time enough for Charlie?
Usually not. The story of my life,
of the one, as Chaucer says of someone,
who seems always busier than he is.
Then, abruptly, & discourteously,
death put a stop to Charlie's visits.
Summer moths collect still at the windows.
Then leaves & winter ice. Then summer moths
again. Each year, old ghost, I seem
to miss you more and more, your youth spent
with Auden & the Big Ones, words--
theirs, yours--helping you survive
a brutal youth. Too late I see now
how you honored me like those hidden
gods of old who walk among us like
the dispossessed, and who, if you are
among the lucky ones, tap at your window
when you least expect to ask you for a cup
of water and a little of your time.
Copyright © 1996 Paul Mariani
From The Great Wheel
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.