I soaked my right hand aflame in poison oak,
stipples of blotch, in the honey-smooth hive
of the bees, and gestured with my left hand
to the statue I had bought off e-Bay of Horace
Greeley, the newspaperman, who also said
Stay put, young man, to his own son, not
Go west, and I’ve made a plinth out of teeth,
shells and concrete to house his bust where
we’re stuck in mortgage and downed HVAC.
My wife has tied, day after day, a balloon to
his lips as if he were about to say, cartoon style,
something to us about animal husbandry
which I thought described me, but each day
the balloon went slack, sucked. Quiet on
the set. Until finally, after a fortnight,
when we had abandoned hope, our legs
in shorts a site for swelling insect bites,
we saw him speak, sans balloon, about
the agricolas and the campos, the farmers
in the fields, and my wife knew this was not
Horace Gringo but Roman Horace or Virgil
of Georgics fame maybe, how much did I pay?
To be cagy, I said a portion of our 401K, without
stipulating, knowing I had bought a rock
that was taciturn, my mistake. She whispered
in his ear that had been partially washed away
by air, and the two seemed to get along
famously, and I was left to gawk, paparazzo,
as she revealed herself to him, the farms
of Minnesota, the loess hills where she camped
in Iowa, and he took it all in like a man.
I said, Let’s go inside away from these bugs,
but she was in deep, the conversation
going over my head in little boats of thought
and she began that night sleeping rough in
her own backyard, partially on a slab, her arm
around the little man’s toppled head.
I often dream of what life—beautiful life—will be like in retirement!
No boss, no clocks, no stress, nothing to dislike in retirement!
I can spend hours folding wash, even rags, conduct experiments
With vinegar on windows, on a whim mount my exercise bike in retirement.
Maybe angioplasty won’t be a blast, and dementia a downer,
But there will be no labor unrest, no reason for hunger strikes in retirement.
Sure, life on a fixed income might feel like a dog’s after he’s been fixed,
But there will be time to bone up on even the Second Reich in retirement.
I’ll have to monitor the markets, guard against inflation eating into my nest egg
For the yolk, constantly lobby to prevent any tax hikes in retirement,
But imagine taking up a sport you’ve never tried like fishing, getting
Woozy on docks and gunnels, bringing up immature Northern pike in retirement.
So what if your kids are a continent away, your wife in a gracious-living home nearby,
There’s no special need to focus on bodily love or tykes in retirement.
Though your hearing and balance are going, you can still be a bird watcher
And cross off your list warbler, waxwing, killer shrike in retirement.
Don’t think of your name on your tombstone too often, a pensioner
Is not dead, just an emeritus lover who can’t quite say hike in retirement.
Remember when your friends used to sing I’m in Heaven when with Kevin?
No? Well, there’s still time to stick a finger into memory’s leaking dike in retirement!
You just walk the few bright Mexican blocks
From Frida Kahlo’s to Trotsky’s study
Where De Sica’s wife’s half brother picked
A fight with Trotsky by asking him to read
Some treatise he composed and then applied
The ice axe to the Russian’s skull as he read,
And though arrested, Mercader only received twenty years,
This you remember, and something about revolution
In one country and permanent revolution everywhere,
But what you recall most of all is the sad room
Stopped in 1940 when Trotsky died, the books
And aging brown sheaves on the desk, letters,
Newspapers, still in the Trotskyite museum,
And bourgeois to the hilt, that glimpse of
Color in the map of Mexico, its thirty-one states
Vibrantly alive with the color of blood, organs,
Hair, skin, orchids, palms, birds of paradise.