The statutory matinal
double scotch, slosh and swirl
of mouthwash, brisk
wedge-fingered paddlings of the cheeks.
Such rituals sustain
the middle-aged professor through the estuarial
sludges of a tenure-crusted afternoon.
In front of him the shapes have rearranged themselves,
are taking notes, as now the fashion is,
beneath the desks. He hears a voice that’s his
say “Erikson” and then he hears a voice that’s his
say “Erikson.” Self-reflection, he well knows,
can be a nasty-turning fellow of occasion,
best left unprovoked. And so the battened sentences unroll
thick as smoke across the staling room.
Everything is well to him.
When, and with what peculiarities,
the yielding Cadillac that knows four streets
and five red signs is slouching back
to where a massive screen is chattering
its suited and its leggy urgencies
to nobody, and now to him,
this poem cannot follow, only guess.
Perhaps there is no loneliness
of flickering or darkened rooms,
or corridor where in its polished frame
the doctorate is hanging like a slur
each time he passes. Perhaps it doesn’t reoccur
to him that over thirty years ago
he told himself he’d stay a year, one year—
two at most. . .