Scoundrel Time

The History of Wrongs

will take a while, doodle all you want.
Dot a pupil on each pearl stacked
to distraction on the margin. Argus froth out

a hundred eyes of which by turn did sleep
always a couple and the rest…
Scribble the obvious. Life, friends, is…

I cross-hatch around margins, a wattle tile
to while the crisis in the agenda.
He says, “We’ll be tightening our belts.”

He says, “Doing more with less.”
“I believe in we, we’re all in this together,”
he says. Go fill in what riddle

you zone out to in the conference room
while you caricature their likenesses.
Aquiline or accipitral is it? He trains

on objection, a paper-chaser to his left
short-hands the minutes she’ll send tomorrow,
a whipper to his right rubs her nose, nods to “we.”

Vulturine maybe, considering
the missing bodies, vacant chairs,
the wake-like huddle just outside the door now—

an ad hoc, back-door meeting within a meeting
to slash-and-burn the operating budget.
The specifics are unspeakable,

(more ways than one) as in objectionable,
as in, talk, I’d be airbrushed out of history,
as in who can tell. In this shuffle and fudge,

caricature turns courtroom sketch.
Scribble the obvious beside the cluster of eyes.
They all go into the dark

the captains, merchants, bankers,
the statesmen and the rulers
(little consolation)

distinguished civil servants,
chairmen of many committees,
industrial lords and petty contractors

all go into the dark. Least worrisome
considering the body bags piled by statesman,
the banker’s toxic assets, the petty contractor

running for office, and the list can go on
while we attend another meeting,
hear one more transition team,

tune in to a press conference,
its obligatory, cutesy anecdotes,
fanfares to the common man,

the Joe Blow propped there to show
the man at the lectern can slum outside
of his alma mater, boardroom, club.

Ours here says: “The reason I was hired,
when they asked me, ‘would you be ready’
I remembered, this cabbie, La Guardia

to Midtown, you know the type
I was going incidentally to another interview,
and I asked him, if you were me…”

You’ve got it, Jamaican fellow behind the wheel
clarified boss’s call, defined his mission
the gumption and wisdom of the patois

got him this job and who knows,
comes time when gavel falls,
maybe even, justified the means.

You know his type, CEO or CFO,
Provost, VP, administrator, screw
rushing from headlines and into the back seats

of town cars to get out of there
dispensers, directors, the nouveaux riche.
I’m getting ahead of myself, car pulling

away prematurely, though he will go
become “acting” something or other,
a higher office, then split elsewhere,

“a thrill and a tremendous honor,”
press release will quote, though we here
will only get a message from his boss

regretting the departure, thanking him.
Time being, he is in the comfort zone
of bound reports. “Any comment

or concerns? Just to make clear
I’m here to make this great place greater
and you’re the way, wonderfully gifted.”

He wants transparency and open doors….
Paper chaser cuts him short, whispers to cupped ear.
My friend Ben, has calligraphied his way

through the Chinese alphabet.
While they bumble for document
王八蛋(wáng bā dàn) bastard, son-of-a-bitch.

爛 (làn) crappy, lame, stupid, while they consult.
And 笨 (bèn) stupid, idiot, when he reaches,
he says, “the hard decision”  and docks

in that rhetorical flourish where speaker stops
as if unable or unwilling to go on,
which Pope—spent so long at the Iliad,

become a scholar in the sort of anger
come when bully, his unmerited rewards,
windfall profits, fringe benefits

sort changes those soldier on for him—
calls it, the hem and hum,
the stutters and hesitation, APOSIOPESIS

“an excellent figure for the ignorant”
he explains, “as in What shall I say?
because they have nothing to say;

or I can no more, when one really can no more.”
The grimace, the twitch, another whisper.
Net worth, salary, dumb titles, something

gives them the idea of who they are,
of who we are with scrawled margins,
ancient alphabets or ink stains to pass the time

they take to reach their nonplus, our cul-de-sac,
gather their papers, late for another meeting,
………. “any questions?”