mystified by the behavior
of one of my sons,
my wife will point out
if   it’s age-appropriate,
making me wonder why
I still shout at ballplayers on tv
and argue with the dead.
Last week, my oldest son,
with a wild pitch, turned
my left ankle into an eggplant.
I didn’t yell at the doctors
who refused my insurance,
or get angry with a friend
who told me to soak it
in bourbon and garlic. No,
I read Montaigne who said
self-revelation is the purpose
of discourse, which, in his day,
meant knowing whether
to be flattered if a friend
didn’t use a food-taster,
or amused if a witch cast a spell
of   weeping on an in-law.
Blaise Monluc, the king’s
lieutenant general during
the civil wars, Montaigne says,
threw so many hanged Protestants
down a well you could reach in
and touch the top one’s head. Yes,
Monluc, who was fond of saying
“When the scaffolds are full, use trees,”
knew what was appropriate.
On occasion I’ll run into a lobby
to avoid greeting a friend,
not because my mind vanishes
and I can’t remember his name,
which is true, but because I
must flee what is darkest in me.
In other words, when evicted from
a strange lobby into a stranger street,
where every scaffold is full
and bodies dangle in the long
blue sorrow of the afternoon,
without context, explanation, or sympathy,
it’s good to know, even momentarily,
how to live, among the relevant,
the passionate, and the confused.

Source: Poetry July/August 2013

Philip Schultz

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