I choose pleasure not duty.
Earth’s Age of Gold must come without my help.
It’s much nicer to sit in the sun
with a cat asleep on my lap
than to preach and persuade,
warn and cajole.
That was all so sad and hopeless,
unbearably sad, day by day
failing to make a difference.
So I flew to the planet Caro
for a luxury vacation
on its famous scarlet beaches.
I fell in love with the carefree immortals of Caro
and stayed, and stayed.
I sent for my cats and my books and some friends,
found a mansion for us all to share,
went through the citizenship rigmarole
and qualified for eternal leisure
and a full measure of pleasure.
Old villages in high places
with vistas we now ignore –
even paradise gets boring
when you’ve seen it every day
for eighty years, or twenty,
and life in a scenic marvel
is as ordinary as anywhere else,
as difficult, as sad.
You wonder why the tourists come.
You think they’re mad,
but you’re glad
of all the money they bring,
and the novelty of strangers
cheers you for a moment.
The language is hard to understand,
whispered, like dangerous opinions.
Even the sentry fears what he hears.
Guarding the glass road
which never carries traffic,
he has nothing to do but listen.
If the birds come back one day
he’ll be sure to hear them.
John the Baptist,
without his head,
is still preaching
in the wilderness of downtown Totopolis,
all the way to the river’s edge
where candidates for baptism
wait in white robes,
singing a psalm,
ready to be dipped,
stripped of the old nature
and pumped full of holy spirit.
My old pal Larry dawdles on the bank,
eating pizza, and watching.
‘These folk put on a good show,’ he says
and jumps into the water.
He and I scamper through the Old Quarter
like puppies on vacation,
hearing its jazz,
loving its louche beauty,
eating gumbo as a pleasant duty
and drinking those strong brews
that blow your head away,
and we become the merry sort,
the sort of legless,
but getting robbed
as we sleep in the gutter.
Yes, my love, you said it once before
as we drifted on the Mississippi
looking for a place to land –
‘Let The Good Times Roll!’