by Jennifer Moxley

Jennifer Moxley

Not forced to fall for hideous Phaon,
nor to drift dreamlike from
a Victorian cliff, pursued by visions
of slender limbs, peach-soft hair,
dewy violets clustered
in an unwilling lap, not exiled
on a distant island for writing
smartly about love, not called amoral
nor forgotten, not murdered
by a jealous lover, nor weakened
from drink, did not make an incision
in the veins, never murdered
in a tavern at twenty-nine
nor thought mad, released immediately
from St. Luke's Hospital for Lunatics,
freed from Northampton
General Lunatic Asylum,
cured of syphilis, not mad
nor ruined by drink nor shot
in the head, the rope unknotted
and fluidly slid from the lamp-
post, sauntered away with a sideways
crawl up the Champs-Élysées,
never sickened from drink
nor drowned in the Gulf of Spezia,
the heart kept tight swam madly
toward shore, disappeared down
the glistening beach skipping
happily in the direction of England,
staved off fever while fighting
for Greeks, lived, wrote, erased
the blood-stained pillowcase, married Fanny,
moved to Finland, fathered several
pink-skinned children, lay down for a rest
in the Baltimore street, got up
confused about Spanish port and
went to the graveyard to sleep it off,
laudanum, opium, stroke, paralysis,
aphasia, angels, threads of exotic Delacroix
visions, but everything was put right
when mom said, "Come on home,
I want to care for you," left the house
and walked into the river until
the water level covered the hairline
then shed the heavy Edwardian garments
and broke into a birdlike breaststroke
exclaiming, "How lovely to be free
of the sickbed!" never destroyed by drink,
sang while removing the shrapnel from
a soldier, recovered from the Spanish flu,
returned to Poland all debts forgiven
by appreciative readers from the Congo,
replaced the bottle of Lysol among toxic
rats enjoying a sauna under the sink,
did not pull the trigger or push the chair
out from under the revolution
while screaming about the army of the arts,
put on a jacket and sailed to Mexico,
calmly came up on deck, folded
the jacket over the rail, and then—
arrested by a vision of spread-eagled sailors
descending like angels through
the turquoise sky—decided not
to swallow the sea, freed from Payne Whitney,
walked right on through the psychiatric
state hospital and out the other side,
had no psychotic break while on acid
in a land of dreamlike torch singers
masquerading as Satanists, never touched the stuff,
the dead liver tissue miraculously mended,
smoker's cough silenced, cured by the sea air
of old gray Gloucester, jumped into
the beach taxi and drove down the beach
gesticulating gaily toward the setting sun,
not undone, unloved, forgotten, nor
filled with despair, not punished for talking
with angels, not unhappy nor alone,
not misrepresented nor misunderstood
nor nauseous from drink or drugs or depression,
loved respected and read
long-lived healthy and happy
celebrated by all in life before
dying contented in a comfortable bed.

Last updated June 18, 2019