The Maltese M

by George Bowering

Surely it tells us something that more people
read Paradise Lost than even begin reading Paradise
Regained.   Things used to be different, but now
more people say “Oh, Hell!” than say “Heavens
to Betsy!” Of course a lot of those nice old names
have fallen into disuse, like spats or sugar tongs.
I was thinking of reading some more Milton because
his name starts with M, as does Marlowe,
whom I am reading now after a long hiatus.
Have you ever noticed that hiati are getting
longer these days? And really, there isn’t one,
not a true one, because I didn’t read Marlowe
so much as be the kind of person who has
read Marlowe, who went sometimes as Merlin,
as does the wise wife of my longtime friend Dave
McFadden, whose books of poetry I have been reading
for all our adult lives. Dave believes that Paradise
is here right now, all around us, and so he
absorbs it and bears witness that life is not
all subway noise and undersalted eggs. Heavens
to Betsy, I say to him, more people confess
willingly to reading your books of poetry than
even know about Paradise Regained in any edition.
He smiles like a bodhisattva who will have
no specific religion until time leaks out under the door.