I. My Early Days My red shock of hair made you stare. “They” say either I looked over their heads, or glared into their eyes. I was unsociable, unattractive, so querulous and uncouth that people laughed just looking at me. Who’s “They”? It’s my father’s brother, His Nibs, the Lord High Admiral. I rubbed my hands madly, Uncle Johannes said, when I was wrong. I’d not have liked to meet myself. II. Bookseller, Art Dealer What’s wrong with always being right is, victories aside, often being wrong. But I was right, I was, I was. Sell books I wouldn’t read myself? Pictures I’d turn face to the wall? I’d read too much and drew too well. In the art store or the bookstore, I’d get caught translating The Word: In disbelief of disbelief, hands rose. Spying trees and flowers in my other notebook, it was sniggling, whispering, ratting on me. “Silly!” I still hear them, “Silly!” A busy time for wretched art is Christmas. To avoid abetting such unholiness, I went home. I can say I said adieu first. III. My Women In order may sound like disorder, good luck like bad luck. The landlord made the first beloved, who loved me to my toes, give me up for her fiancé. My father did the next job, shooing away the model who, with her child, stood to jump social classes wildly. (She did say my oils cost too much.) Beautiful, lovely widow, four conspirators, your and my parents, how did you bear their crime to us? Hilarious! My first great work, peasants eating their potatoes, the Pastor claimed it was I who filled the filly’s belly! Methinks he didst protest too much, banning me from that poor house forever. I never laid a hand on her, a finger or two, maybe! But as far as I went, the clap came from elsewhere. Pastor, your pustules? Speaking of blamelessness, the man next to her, they say’s a Goya. Goya who? Bless those who loved me. Such good luck. Marriage, and I’d be pushing love stories and post cards. My ear would have no tales to tell.
Chris Waters is the author of Ghost Lighthouse: New and Selected Hatteras Poems (March Street Press, 2012).