You walk in, your clothes dark
and strangely appropriate, an arrogance
about you as if you had a ramrod
for a spine. You feel posture-perfect.
When you speak, women move away.
You smile, and men see tombstones.
They think they know who you are,
that they could throw you out
as they could one man. But today you are
every man who has been omitted
from any list: how quickly they see
they would have no chance.
You pour yourself a drink,
as if ready to become one of them.
Under your skin, nerve endings, loose
wires, almost perceivable. Something
somewhere is burning. You tell them
you’ve dreamed of moments like this,
to be in their lovely house,
to have everyone’s attention. You ask
of the children, are they napping?
You extend your hand to the host,
who won’t take it, reminds you
you were not invited, never will be.
You have things in your pockets
for everybody. House gifts.
Soon you’ll give them out.
If only they could understand
how you could be ruined
by kindness, how much
you could love them
if they knew how to stop you.
Painting: John Coch’s Cocktail Party