Midston House


      What is needed is a technique
Of conversation, I think, as I put on the
Electric light. But not the limited
Vocabulary of our experience, the
Surface irritations which pile up,
Accumulate a city, – but the expression,
Metamorphosed, of what they are the
Metaphor of; – and their conversion into light.

      On the bus toward Midston House
I survey the people in their actions. Placid
And relaxed are they; this is the humdrum
Claptrap costume of girls and food, men
And work and house. The insurance
Of habit is circular, as
Democracy has interlocking duties,
Circular obediences.

      Yet how to transform
The continual failing clouds of
Energy, into light? The vital
Intelligence of the man whom I am
Going to visit – does he know? I
Think how the sharp severing of
My life's task – severed associations,
Produced in me almost a
Lypothymia of grief and a hiatus of
Days, which grew fangs of anger, my
Lycanthropy – thank god, it's over!

      I am fired from my job by flames, big
As angry consciences; I can do
Nothing; I have not one ability! This man
Whom I am waiting to see in the lobby – 
All my life I am waiting for something that
Does not eventuate – will he
Exist?

      The law of life, like an abstract
Rigorous lawyer, passes a terrifying judg-
Ment on poor little me, in a strange foreign
Syllogism. He is cheating me! He will not
Keep the appointment!

                                    His probity
Rebukes my suspicion. What can I say, that
I love him; that I am un-
Worthy? My doubt makes me feel,
– Even as we discuss another's dishonesty –
Ugly, irate, and damned avid, a cunning
Rascal, like that ugly bird of the White
Nile.

      But the poem is just this
Speaking of what cannot be said
To the person I want to say it.
I am sleepy with subtlety; the room strikes me as
Dark, so cold, so lonely. There is
No one in it. I will put on all the lights.
I wish I could go
On a long, on a long long journey
To a place where life is simple and decent, not
Too demanding.

No! On the vehicle, Tomorrow, I will see
That man, whose handshake was happiness.


David Schubert, Works and Days, Quarterly Review of Literature, 1983.