It’s fair enough for a poet to have some dirt
beneath his fingernails
or a piece of leaf caught in her hair.
When you ask him how he’s doing
it’s fine for him to shuffle up
the bench a bit to let the ghosts sit down
or for her to pull a tangled length
of metaphor out of her pocket
to tie together all the losses.
It’s more than normal for a poet
to choose the window while
the novelists prefer the aisle.
When poets turn on each other
they are like milk turning.
When they love
they are children with money.
They think their desk is an altar
and wearing a black sweater
speaks of perpetual mourning,
that staring at the ceiling is
an hour spent thinking
how the mundane deserves
its beautiful due, and in the wallet
of the poet sit the business cards
they’ve printed up declaring,
on one side, the statement
on the other side is true,
and on the other side,
on the other side’s a lie.
Up Late by Nick Laird is available via Norton.
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