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Essays by David Groff
The Peril of the Poetry Reading: The Page Versus the Performance
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by David Groff

Not the poet—though yes,
a poet, aspiring. Old. 
At Big Cup he regards us
slickened with testosterone,
his eyes entertained.  
Though his full hair helps him 
seem a youth in drag	
save for the swags of his neck, 
he canít but help present
himself as age itself, 		
a brand of birthmark
we think we wonít accrue,    
unnerving as June rime
limning a suburban lawn,
as if he were a black man
scouting a Mormon temple.  
His melting candle of body,  
cupped, burns. He grins.

Compare him to the man-crone 
trolling Our Place 
in Des Moines with Frank
Fortuna and Dan Grace
two decades ago: 
Brutally cruising, drunken,
his halo of hair aflame, 
he swaggered to budding men
declaring "You'll be me!,"
his annunciation denunciation,
then stalked off, sated.
The boys, abashed and angry,
decided time was a virus
you just had to swallow.
"The faggot angel of death,"
Frank baptized him.
Now Frank is fifty-one,
commences drinking at noon. 

Maybe knowing Frank,
or himself an initiate of crones,
and warhorse of Village cafes
whose soldiers now are wraiths, 
(who here knows			
what old men know?),
Milton acts like he belongs.
He steps among tattoos,
buzzed hair, and bashful mouths, 
inhales the caffeine and finds
himself an appropriate chair,
surveying the sipping guys, 
while taking care to seem
a clean old man.
He winks, to summon us 
to the fallen fruit of himself
that if weíve got guts enough 
we will pick up and eat. 

First published in Bloom. Copyright © David Groff. Reprinted with permission of the author.
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