The iambs of the Byronic hero —
debauched, divorced, doomed,
world-weary by twenty-three,
romantic soul chained to wit.
How many clubfeet scanned in a line?
How many lines in a face over thirty?
The professor at the blackboard
rolls the chalk like a nipple,
in an enjambment of his lecture on Byron,
swivels to the comatose class,
abruptly remarks: “I wish I had written
a play like Tom Stoppard —
Byron and Leopardi and Schopenhauer
lording it up in Venice.
In the small hours the stars dimly spangle
on the murk of candle-lit Venice.
The German Buddha philosopher,
hunchback, love-spurned poet,
passion-rotted Scottish lord,
professor at the black board —
together they glide in a gondola
with a half-naked whore,
debate Dio, Amore, war;
you are dogs, curs, cane,
hisses the whore, cursing them
as they paw her
and the oars of the sullen craft
thrust up the torch-rippled canal,
water parting wide as her legs.
The professor’s tenured heart quickens
to the meter of regret
as he takes up the chalk again
and the curtain rises
on the scene never written.
A jaundiced moon gleams wanly
–“Night School” (Finishing Line Press, 2015)