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Leaving the Polite Party

ISSUE:  Summer 1988

This time the leaving felt especially good
  as if I’d moved
toward some clean elemental selfishness

only the right people could respect.
  Above me, though,
no visible moon, no trace of those few stars

I could think of as personal
  when I felt lost.
Lost. There’s a melodramatist

in every serious man. I merely hadn’t found
  enough hearts
in conflict with themselves, enough trouble,

enough joy. Ah, the bucket seat held me
  as if I belonged.
Soon the road was all fast food

and car dealerships, closed, but lit up
  like some mock end
of the world. It was my way home

yet I felt removed, alert, outside
watching a man drive home

in the sudden strangeness of America,
  past the arches
and signs that guaranteed everything

marked down. On the tape
  Janis lan lamented
the good old days gone by,

but I wasn’t thinking now of loss.
  I saw a billboard
and translated all the words.

How clear everything was! We eat
  and get hungry.
We imagine going wild, but instead

we spend. Texaco was on my left,
  Prudential up ahead,
and I recognized without anticipation

these were the landmarks I’d so often
  told others they’d see
before it was necessary to turn.


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