Devious in His Carpenter’s Pants

by Oliver Rice

Suppose the doctor is running late.
Suppose, meanwhile, extrospective,
I cross the street, stroll into the park,
wishing to be in my sweats,
thinking all manner of squirrels,
of blackbirds and beetles,
have had their ecosystems here forever,
how in the human condition
some are apt to gain advantage
and some of those to abuse it.

Suppose my attention swings back to a man
seated there in a slouch hat,
scarf drawn about his chin.
Suppose I casually take the next bench,
thinking how improbably he could be Saul Bellow,

facing the skyline, just removed,

a syndrome,

unaccountable to the joggers, bikers, skaters,
emitting pictures
of old Chicago,
of American Paris,
of the Diaspora,
amorous persecutions,
calamities that start up the soul,

devious in his carpenter’s pants,
emitting guises
as the renegade humanist,
as the casualty of the human venture,

as the multiple, the justified, the tragicomic man,
the guerrilla against himself,
the victim, hysteric, charismatic, scourge,
the deluded narrator,
the gothic autobiographer
with a sensibility for almost anything,

overtaken by late modernity,
emitting voices,
rhapsodic, bumptious, confessional,
outraged by the philistines, the shrewd barbarians,
the banalities, the absurdities,
saying man’s natural predator is man,
saying the soul wants what it wants,
all postures are mocked by their opposites,
how the blood rushes to the psyche!

But, oho.
Suppose I receive intimations
that he senses my intrusions.
Suppose I fold my paper,
casually rise and stroll on,
thinking how improbably he could be Saul Bellow,

emitting a syndrome,
pictures of old Chicago,