Patronage by Solmaz Sharif
willingness is what one needs
They say one needs to succeed.
Our poets do not imagine
Our poets are used to padding,
vinyl, on the foldable chairs,
bookshelves on casters
to make space for them
A world polite
for their words
A world’s behavior
malformed and they step
in as one steps in
to a nursery and
calms the tantrum
attempts not to wake
the sleeping, the milk-drunk
and burped babe.
Our poets coo.
And beg their feet be placed in a large room.
Prize ring. Bull ring. Lion
through the ring of flames.
Poets convinced they are ringmaster
when it is with big brooms and bins, in fact,
they enter to clear the elephant scat.
There was an inlet
I pulled over once to watch the sunset, which
was still another hour or so away, the light
just low enough there to begin to change.
I should’ve stayed. I should’ve stayed.
A life of idle, with money
doing the work. A life beholden,
but bestowed. To make reformists of us all,
even the fascists.
of the fascists.
But he’s a patron.
But he makes a star of us,
he makes us of rank.
But he’s a churchgoer
and they place their hands on him and pray and bountiful
grow their wives’ bellies, a bully
for each family. Exponential doom.
Singing to each other in the private gazebo of their youth.
I said what I meant
but I said it
in velvet. I said it in feathers.
And so one poet reminded me
Remember what you are to them.
Poodle, I said.
And remember what they are to you.
© 2021 Solmaz Sharif. “Patronage” originally appeared in The Yale Review on May 19th, 2021. Solmaz Sharif is the author of two collections of poetry: Look: Poems, which was published by Graywolf Press in July 2016 and was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award; and Customs: Poems, which is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in March 2022 and is available to preorder wherever books are sold.
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