Flattery by John Gery


John Gery's new collection of poems is A Gallery of Ghosts (2008). He also co-authored with Rosella Mamoli Zorzi and others In Venice and in the Veneto with Ezra Pound (2007). Recent work appears in Callaloo, West Branch, Gulf Coast Review, Prairie Schooner, Normal School, Quaderni di Palazzo Serra, and elsewhere. A Research Professor of English at the University of New Orleans and Director of the Ezra Pound Center for Literature, he was a Fulbright Fellow to the University of Belgrade, Serbia, in 2007.



is underrated and will often get you
everywhere. Like a satellite tracking system

it looks down on you, able to pinpoint
even the moles festering beneath your

slowly thinning hair, as it drifts
hundreds of miles above you, lingering,

patient as global warming. It has the slick eye
of the paid assassin, loyal to his boss,

who can pick you out of any grocery line
or college reunion catalogue. It knows

its limits yet is always ready to test yours,
with the lure of the puzzle no one can resist.

When it strikes, you may try, demurely,
to duck from its sway. Good luck, sucker.

But if you just let the professional do its job,
think of the compensations: Temporary ease

in which even the bone spurs on your spine
appear cute, the pleasure of knowing exactly

how much you are misunderstood, and occasionally
you even get a free drink - mmm! Scotch!

Never shake a stick at that! Leave virtue
to the anonymous. You'll join them soon enough.

And for now bask in the glow, radioactive,
if not radiant, that carries you through

the awful recognition underneath it all
that the company you keep you will keep

whether your story gets written or not.
Luck of the draw, really, so just take it,

that dart piercing your nape. It may stun you,
at first; it does smart - but for that salve, mmm