The Deceased Partner
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
You were a boy just out of college. Being your father’s son, it seemed you’d have potential. But I saw you didn’t care. You’d never add up. You came to work as a clerk. Little work we got from you, one so terrified by technicalities. I took you to the deed room, that basic place of a lawyer’s days, and you said you’d rather investigate people. How would you eat all those poems you were writing? How would you survive the storms to fall upon you, you so unlearned in all but fancy? You did show skill at the Xerox machine, at running off piles of poems you wrote for the non-pay poem publications. That while we had briefs due; depositions. You could have been learning your way through the labyrinth of law on which stands life. Therein you would have found the stuff of epics, new language. You chose instead to face the Minotaur unarmed. Easy talk when you don’t know what you’re saying. Yes, you could also answer the phone. But most of all, you were your father’s son, and he, the senior partner, said nothing of your stagnation, seemed ready to wait for you to recover from whatever had happened to you in college. When you left, the xerox bills left with you. I said that’s that, he’s off into a world that will eat him alive. But I knew I could be wrong. At your brother’s wedding we had stood half drunk parrying about some political line much harped on in that day. Fifteen or twenty steps into the argumentations, I saw you could talk from two sides of a table; that though I did not care for what you had to say, you were two sided like a lawyer must be. I had seen something new, another form within the shambling poet boy who regained his sullen, cyclopsean posture, the usual dullness that Monday at the office. At my death, you were not on my mind. But now you come, six years later, to sit at my desk, in my old chair, and know the slant of light off law from books you bring down from shelves I helped pay for. Knowing what you must know as a poet of that place from which I speak, you know that costs are not now my concern, nor contributions to aid you now. Still, I will offer what I can, not having more to offer than my memory to speak for your encouragement; to see that I now see one should expect the unexpected.