Sunday Poem

Not to Choose

I should be someplace else!
but pace around in the sweats
of inhumane endeavor and its trash:
goods, deeds, credits, debts.
Have it your own way, life:
I'm just here to die, but I
would rather live it out as a fool
and have a short life in contempt
and idle graces, but, instead,
the office telephone goes off
and voices out of its dark night
command me, "Choose, Choose,"
while women's angel voices call
the cities and their numbers. Then,
when I do choose, "I run away!"
the shop door opens and a cop
or statue stand there in the way.
What does he want? Blood. Oh
let me tumble in the wards, bolts
and chambers of a police lock, locked
so I can get to sleep again,
warm in the guaranteed steel!
Instead, I have to fake him off
with promises to pay. Cash!
How cold action is. I should
do spiritual exercises toward
the body of this world
and get in shape for choices,
choices, No! Instead, I leave
the dirty business by the back
window, climb down the fire escape,
and sneak out of town alive
with petty cash and bad nerves in
an old Ford with a broken muffler!
So here I am again, July,
vacationing in your country broke,
in debt, not bankrupt yet!
and free to get your message!
What is it?
To begin again in another state!

Alan Dugan
from New and Collected Poems 1961-1983
Ecco Press, 1983