Do you ever have a moment
when suddenly you wonder
if all these things you do
are really far less than
you thought. Not that you thought
you were competent,
but maybe you could be of use,
could play some chords that would help
people sing together,
could write a poem
that might help someone feel.
But what if even that is delusion?
The accompaniment detracts from the song.
The poem is a slag heap of broken words.
It’s possible that
those who don’t believe in you are right,
and you are blind and misguided.
But some people like what I do,
you think, they told me.
What if, those times,
the kind gesture revealed
not who you are, but who they are?
It would be kinder in return
not to put them in that position.
Just focus on behaving appropriately,
presenting yourself well:
already more challenge,
after all, than you can expect
to master. We knew that.
You’d thought you could put together
a unique outfit that actually works,
from these thrift-store finds,
dollar store clearance items,
the antique silk scarf
inherited from your mother,
its colors still brilliant
even as the fabric disintegrates.
What you took for creativity
was only poverty. No one
is inspired by your clumsy pretensions.
You should spend a little more money
and try to blend in. Speak less.
Try harder. Show respect
for their standards. People like that.
It helps them know where they belong.