The Narcissist, in Three Parts.


I. Superego - the Narcissist Wakes

The Narcissist wakes, and when he showers
Little flecks of gold wash out of his hair.
Into tinted parked-car windows he’ll stare
For moments – oh, if they were hours! –
Only slightly delaying his entrance
To class. He hears the end of the sentence
“…up to nature”; thinks “Christ, he’s on Act Three
After two weeks. If it were up to me”…

The Narcissist dreams his syllabus while
Iambs flutter past him and down the aisle
Toward eager unsophisticated ears.
Disgusted by these would-be Shakespeares,
Numbed by the cascade of effulgent praise,
The Narcissist rests in the chrysalis
Of acrid vanity, transforming his
Puerile discontent into winged malaise.

II. Id - A Nightmare

Before the wicker blind splinters the light
Into shards of dancing dust, before
the sun shames the cool-burning signs
into giving up the ghost, a flatbed
crashes along second avenue
toward some calamity, and I breathe
the furied air - forced warm dry and hurried -
half-dreaming of dew.

You told me not to think like that,
your lip arched in a wrought-iron snarl
And cold to my knitted brow, pearled with sweat.
“The body wakes in stages,” you whispered
Into yesterday’s ear, “a process as banal
As it is unknown.”

(Am I having that wonder yet again?)

A familiar scene: encased in the seamless
Sphere, reflective to a fault - like Escher’s
self-portrait, but inverse (You know the one:
The hand, real, one threatening tendon
pointing to the artist’s clowned, catcher’s
mitt face). Beat your dead arms frantically,
Revive the betrayed and betraying limbs.
No help: they’re bloodless.

How to escape this mirror ball, where
The tempest of transposed shapes pose a new
Semantics, and the echoes pervert words
Yet unmouthed? Who knows? Narcissus, this is
You, and not-you. A wish, a whim, a mental tic?
Hardly.

(the fever breaks)

Such is the logic of lost days: we read
the braille of the past with rubber gloves on,
the message being the bumps, not the lie
of curves. But, mistaking want for need,
we traded the timbre of the master’s brass
for the pure false tone of a reverie.

III. Ego - Actually

Outside, though we couldn’t say for sure,
The ground was still cold,
And the gray woolen sky
Pressed itself into the fallen snow,
Leaving it just as gray.

We sat, dipping our fingertips in candle wax
and talking of future selves as our fingers
Peeled back the evidence of identity.
Actually, we spoke of football and war and
Other things of which we knew nothing.

It was enough to hear your voice
And watch your nimbler
Fingers carefully shed
The dry, whitish sheaths.
Actually, they were yellow.

Actually, we stood at the window
And stared wordlessly at
A world blanketed in fleece,
Or gauze, our fingertips
Still coated with wax.


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