No Show

Some mornings I go to the usual meeting place, but no poems show up. I wait, picking lint off my sweater or obsessively adjusting the ritual objects. I imagine myself an impatient young zoo visitor, scanning the newly refurbished ursine habitat in vain for any sign of the bear. Some days I can hear him grumbling and knocking around backstage; other days: total silence, leaving me to speculate. He’s asleep. He’s feeling shy today. There’s something wrong with him – he’s sick. They’ve quarantined him away from the other animals. He’s not here – they’ve had to airlift him to the zoo in San Diego, the only place that knows how to treat his rare disease. He’s dead, and they’re not telling anybody. He killed his keeper last night, and they have him locked up while they consult the police and the public relations people. He’s escaped! For years he was only pretending he couldn’t get across that moat and climb the wall to freedom. Finally, growing weary of waiting, I throw the sack of peanuts at the pigeons and trudge on into my day, restless, trailing a faint scent of betrayal, like the new aftershave that, contrary to the confident promises of the strong-jawed young NASCAR driver in the Superbowl ad, utterly failed to get the girl.