Back to Issue Thirty

The Good Life



What worldly pleasures—sex with strangers,
a cigarette outside a pool hall on a night

the perfect temperature for a tee-shirt—
have I given up for a slightly longer life?

Not many. I have walked the narrow streets
of Trastevere after a bountiful dinner

with a bellyful of wine & a good woman
as Roma battled Lazio in the derby,

& the neighborhood lined up outside cafes
to watch, through open shutters, the small TVs.

I doubt I’ll regret anything at the end.
What kind of god would deprive us of sugar

when he too, once burdened by a body’s
basic needs, knows how sweet it can taste?

To be witness to the gifts, to recognize
the moments. In a park, in full sun, I am there

when my child’s small body trips its switch,
& she laughs for the first time.

I have listened to the world’s best music
performed in a chapel specifically built

to highlight the harmonics of the movements,
chancing on the concert after turning down

the wrong street. I have taken enough time
for myself. I doubt I’ll regret anything at the end.



Trying to Have Something Left Over



Among the wonders that will pass
into myth: the parrotfish,
its gaudy costume flashing through
the reef. We’ll excuse your disbelief
at photos of the world before,
gifs of turtles raking their way
up the beach, male penguins
cocking back their heads to court
a mate. The tenor of the call
betraying the appeal of their weight.
Heavier ones can sit over an egg
without needing to feed
while the mother waddles out to hunt.
You are so hungry for the world
we can’t say anything around you
we don’t want you to repeat.
We mask fears in the narrative.
Arachne angered the gods
by weaving the better tapestry,
& now she’s spinning lace
in the corners of the ceiling
above your crib. Jupiter saved
the couple who offered to kill for him
their only goose, walking them up
the mountain where they saw
the temple rising from the waves
take shape. Even mortals
can make good on the promise.
Noah saved what his boat could hold,
but the parrotfish didn’t need
an ark to survive the flood.
It needed the flood to cleanse
the land. The fish shits out fine,
white sand. You’ll say it’s magic,
& we’ll see awe in your face.
If only we could have remembered
what it felt like to encounter
all this, the pleasure in the gift.



Casey Thayer is the author of Self Portrait with Spurs and Sulfur (University of New Mexico Press) and has published work in The Adroit Journal, AGNI, American Poetry Review, Poetry, and elsewhere. Recipient of fellowships from Stanford University and Sewanee Writers’ Conference, he lives in Chicago and works at the University of Illinois at Chicago.


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