We often elude the scimitars
of the zouaves among the furniture
by being geese.

Or deodars
so that striking at us you also hit
your sacred tree.

(Ha ha, say we.
You say, Just you wait.)


Remember Vitale, the old aesthete
knifed to his death on Mulberry Street.
I hear he said, sinking to his knees,
on the first night of San Gennaro,

Enfin, quelque chose m’arrive!

That’s how I want to go, with an aperçu,
or koan like Basho or Lao-Tzu.
‘I am the nosegay and the nose,’
the strong gods assembled will hear me say.
‘The Japanese beetle and the rose.’

(But say as I’m dying, an old shaman croaks,
with fresher wisdom and better jokes:
the gods fly, deaf to my remarks,
‘I am the password and the pass.
I the asshole and the ass.’)

Knifed for nothing, Vitale, you lived for art
and ended slumming like some old fart,
but for Enfin, quelque chose m’arrive!

Which words recollected here by me
alone save you from obscurity.

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