Years ago, a writer named Dick,
with a book of fiction from a big house,
said angrily, What is any of this
compared to a wife and kid?
It was some sort of conference
and we were on display,
selling ourselves and our books
and not getting paid, or laid.
I see him now, looking across the table,
wanting out—of barrooms and darkness
and the cold infidelities
of constant self-expression
and endless self-congratulation—
into peopled sunlight, messy pedestrian cares.
It isn’t the money either, or lack of,
I long for the death of ambition.
I see him lifting his head into a nimbus
of cigarette smoke and metabolized beer,
then shaking his head, wanting to say
something, then getting up
to get another beer and saying
nothing, yet still feeling he had to
touch whoever was there with the words
that would undo all words.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 37 Number 9, on page 27
Copyright © 2020 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com