i.m. Robert Silvers (1929–2017)
I think he found relief,
a kind of carnival, only in the tunnels
he forced, as with his body, in the replies
to questions he’d shipped by overnight.
This also explains why he swam laps.
Master of the deferential, intricate
refusal, lifetime ban on anyone
once deemed faulty, whetting his wrath
on the failure to secure
a seat on the aisle for that night.
And then he says yes,
yes, with a naughty smile
accepting the lesser thing
and raving about it
because when he accepts it
Rubs out the sub’s query
and rewrites it in his hand, his pencil.
Pencils sharpened a fistful
at a time by some sub-sub.
Walks in and quietly, melodically
says to himself
Any little news or calls or things
today or no one gives a fuck?
He bares his teeth, enunciates, and bugs his eyes
to be charming—You’re all moving manuscripts
around my desk and I feel like Ingrid Bergman
in that film, what was it?
Gaslight!—and because he’s a tyrant
I dry my eyes while laughing.
It’s an uncomfortable fact (for
whom?) that those who went to certain schools
sooner found ways to resist him
or stop resisting.
The time it took me to see I’d never bring him
round to my view of metaphor’s telling.
And then I proceeded
to pledge thirty more years to his archive.