With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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The morning after the election they avoided my eyes,
They knew I was one who had hocked his heart and couldn’t
Buy it back, they shook their heads at me but secretly
They were all tired of my aggressive shoulders and my political button
With the face like a sad gate on it, the face of a man
Who would never be president, whose goodness
Was generally hated. That very day, collapsed and bleak
As an empty purse, a famous poet called me on the phone
And told me in a golden voice, the voice of a man
About to make a marvelous admission, that I had won
Twenty thousand dollars, twenty thousand dollars,
And I stuttered my thanks and said, “Wow,
I can’t believe it,” but really I had already believed it,
Taken it fully and deeply to myself, it was
Already old inside me and hardly mattered, and I wondered,
Wouldn’t I be happier not to have won but to have the man
On my button crack into a smile, saying,
“We did it, man!
Put it there! The dark moths will fly from the silks of peace,
Caramel and licorice will soothe the long days of the poor,
And the persimmons of my promises will ripen on the tree!”
Or was it all for the best that he lost and I picked up the phone
And twenty thousand dollars rained on my election,
On the ten poems I sent the National Endowment for the Arts,
Sponsored by the government I have bitterly resented?
Oh forgive me, Ms. Fortune, that I thank you with my ingratitude;
Forgive me and don’t turn your face away, toward other suitors.
But today I walk out with the terrible absence of my button,
Not a dream flying its long blue tail behind me, and I look
Into the faces that I meet and think, Poor fools, you lost
Everything and you don’t know it, and I won, I won.