Lover of endless disappointments with your collection of old postcards, I'm coming! I'm com- ing! You want to show me a train station with its clock stopped at five past five. We can't see inside the station master's window because of the grime. We don't even know if there's a train waiting on the platform, much less if a woman in black is hurrying through the front door. There are no other people in sight, so it must be a quiet station. Some small town so effaced by time it has only one veiled widow left, and now she too is leaving with her secret.
I knew a night owl who dreamed of being a star of country music. O cruel fate! O vale of tears! We drank whiskey in coffee cups in late-hour dives while the juke box spinned her favorites. She fed me forked pieces of steak while my hand strayed under the table. The choirboy counterman's big ears turned crimson. She, with eyes veiled, head thrown back, so that my next bite hung in midair. I had to stretch my neck all the way to take a nibble. What was I to do? The madness of it was so appealing, and the night so cold.
The time of minor poets is coming. Good-by Whitman, Dickinson, Frost. Welcome you whose fame will never reach beyond your closest family, and perhaps one or two good friends gathered after dinner over a jug of fierce red wine . . . while the children are falling asleep and complaining about the noise you're making as you rummage through the closets for your old poems, afraid your wife might've thrown them out with last spring's cleaning. It's snowing, says someone who has peeked into the dark night, and then he, too, turns towards you as you prepare yourself to read, in a manner somewhat theatrical and with a face turning red, the long rambling love poem whose final stanza (unknown to you) is hopelessly missing.
Your footsteps follow not what is outside the eyes, but what is within, buried, erased. If, of two arcades, one continues to seem more joyous, it is because thirty years ago a girl went by there, with broad, embroidered sleeves, or else it is only because that arcade catches the light at a certain hour like that other arcade, you cannot recall where.