The End of Zeal
Because he had it, because the inane
Inequities of the world had not yet
Penetrated his psyche, he'd attain
Wealth, status--immune to the myriad
Slurs about his brownness. He toted a pad
As reporter and then as teacher-poet,
Assessing his life in the third person.
He pondered how many trees had fallen
To make pulp for an epiphany or pun,
Deciding that his fate had been transferred
Like so much tender. God, if real, had erred.
As payment he put rapists in the pen
And accolades in gruesome elegies
To the battered and the slain. He had morals
So wrote monk-fervently with sense and ease
About campus policies and correctness.
And the clerisy honored his Brownness.
He never rested weekends or on laurels
Documenting the American panorama
At millennium's end, the idol and ideal
Falling fake as snow in a cyclorama
Whenever he sighed and shook his head.
He could not stop shaking. He felt the dread
Adrenaline douse and oxidize his zeal,
That crusade virtue empowering the soul
In whose hole even his brownness withdrew.
His life was his at last, sans God or goal,
Hung out in front of him like carrot stick
On harness rope. What makes a heretic
In academe or, more precisely, who?
Someone has taught the learned mob to lynch
With megabyte and phone. He felt as cursed
Now as inquisitive but did not flinch
In tasseled brownness of his cap and gown.
Does anyone hear a plea in the third person,
He wondered, or care anymore in the first?
Michael Bugeja has published poems in Harper's, Poetry, Georgia Review, Kenyon Review, New England Review, TriQuarterly and many others. His latest collections are "Millennium's End" (Archer) and "Talk" (Arkansas). Bugeja is on the Advisory Board of Writer's Digest and works as special assistant to the president at Ohio University, where he teaches writing and ethics.