Fortuna Et Cupidas

by Irving Layton

Irving Layton

Appetite and chance, luck and desire
together make a man's fate
not the follish lines on his palm nor the conjugation
of stars rule his lot
but these intangible bars infrangibly up and down
on which if he pleases he can graph his days
until he falls from their arching bough
like a ripe fruit to rot or burn

But a man's ball spins merrily merrily
in the roulette wheel of sexuality
at last comes to rest in a gay groove
red black black red fifteen or fifty-one
to the bored indifferent croupier it is all one
scramble your gamble, ramble and gambol
the appointed groove hole slot is always there
waiting for the balls to come tumbling in

Only a few have the guts to shoot themselves
outside where the despair of the casinos
is a sighing fragrance among the leaves and flowers
when the luck has been consistently bad
and all is lost, even that lovely fire
that flamed and flared in thighs and testicles
but at home the defeated roam from room to room
or run from corridors that come running after them

Or hunt for weapons that will let them stay,
the sharp remorse-killing knife and loaded gun
to finger lovingly and to put away;
of one dubious luck the poet alone is lord
good or bad let the gods who flay him say:
to find a memorable name for his anguish
a fat phrase for his woe or a rhyme for the crime
when fortune reloads her glass and carefully takes aim

My youth will not come again
let my gaze be that of the sun, a bold eye
in a bright blue sky, a Greek sky and high
high over the riotous men and women who dance
to the clanging tunes of appetite and chance;
other gods for other men, idols or frauds; mine
be only these to the end of my stubborn days
mine be the brave grateful heart to give them praise

Last updated May 12, 2023