Mark Scott

"the best damned poet in the business"

“Opportunities That Disappointed”

My father never called me “son.” He never said, “Son, why do you want to be a poet?” He never said, “Son, what do you want poetry to do?” He did say, “You’ll never make money as a teacher, but I’ll always be here for you.”

I think what people want to know, or hear, more than how the perfect crime was committed, is how it was come up with, which always happens after the planning and the execution of it go wrong. Audiences are interested in why a poet wrote a poem, or why poetry. Motive is interesting. Means are also interesting, and maybe opportunity. But being the criminal, the best, what that’s like, that’s what interests us—me, anyway. And I should know something about that. Let’s see if I can tell.

“It’s not the right way to do that,” someone says.
“But it’s my way,” says another.
What more is there to know about us?

I wish I had a refusal to play myself. I wish I had an affordance to play others that took to the camera, and an ease in pushing that on millions. Then I might have been a film star or a character actor. But instead I do this. On such thin pedestals legends do the rest. Fictions, adjustments, poses, trials: one could go on listing wonderful tangential nouns. Symbol and emblem and problem. There are so many channels it really doesn’t matter. Indeterminate, indiscriminate, penumbral, fringed. Mallarme, Eliot, Proust, Stevens—those Whistler-painted writers, touching anything they could with their gloves. Yes, I want to be direct, heartfelt, didactic. I want to moralize. I want to be correct. And the millions evidently want to be moralized and corrected and scolded into feeling their hearts beat in their throats. Some gobble the water, some gobble the wine.

Is there a difference between complying and adapting, or are they two words for the same difference? Here, I emphasize my education, my degrees; there, I stress the odd jobs I’ve had and the fact that all my pursuits but one, and that one briefly, were of “opportunities that disappointed.” I won’t say I’m disappointed or that you’ll find me disappointing. I won’t even say, past performance being a pretty good guide to future performance, at least in non-numerical things, that I’m a risk to disappoint you.

“Opportunities that disappointed”: in three words and a cliffhanger, the story of my life. Yours too, probably. A cliffhanger, because we need to say who was, and who is, disappointed, don’t we? We need to find that out and know that. Otherwise, what good is disappointment? What good is anything if it doesn’t come home to someone? If reporters didn’t have “report” to put before “the story”? If they had to say, “I told that story last year.”

My brown mustache pouted its lips onto the paper. It was after lunch. I felt good, chewing Skoal, drinking a cup of black Japan-roasted coffee. The sun sat behind some clouds at the theater. Beauty that paid obsessive court to death wasn’t my beauty. I couldn’t make old money, and I didn’t care for Andy Warhol’s mincingly cosmetic Polaroid Swinging. The surface of a picture is no different from the bath it developed in, however thick or thin the chemicals in combination. Umbers, numbers. It’s probably the same with an apple, a stalk of celery, a man, a woman. “I am a camera.” Are not. Not in there making anything. The taste is not in the sapid thing, a philosopher wrote. An open and shut case.

It’s all a goof.
I’m good. I get it.
I get it. I’m good.
I waive the quantum of the sun.

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