This poem from the New Yorker magazine is a rumination on Virgil’s conception of death as an inescapable constant force, the impossibility of fatherhood in the face of war, and the lack of available Nintendo Wiis.
The God of Loneliness
by Philip Schultz
It’s a cold Sunday February morning
and I’m one of eight men waiting
for the doors of Toys R Us to open
in a mall on the eastern tip of Long Island.
We’ve come for the Japanese electronic game
that’s so hard to find. Last week, I waited
three hours for a store in Manhattan
to disappoint me. The first today, bundled
in six layers, I stood shivering in the dawn light
reading the new Aeneid translation, which I hid
when the others came, stamping boots
and rubbing gloveless hands, joking about
sacrificing sleep for ungrateful sons. “My boy broke
two front teeth playing hockey,” a man wearing
shorts laughs. “This is his reward.” My sons
will leap into my arms, remember this morning
all their lives. “The game is for my oldest boy,
just back from Iraq,” a man in overalls says
from the back of the line. “He plays these games
in his room all day. I’m not worried, he’ll snap out of it,
he’s earned his rest.” These men fix leaks, lay
foundations for other men’s dreams without complaint.
They’ve been waiting in the cold since Aeneas
founded Rome on rivers of blood. Virgil understood that
death begins and never ends, that it’s the god of loneliness.
Through the window, a clerk shouts, “We’ve only five.”
The others seem not to know what to do with their hands,
tuck them under their arms, or let them hang,
naked and useless. Is it because our hands remember
what they held, the promises they made? I know
exactly when my boys will be old enough for war.
Soon three of us will wait across the street at Target,
because it’s what men do for their sons.
Man, I hate poetry. This is barely even a poem and it still can’t help but be the worst. I supported it up until “We’ve only five.” No one who works at Toys R Us on Long Island has ever said “We’ve only five.” No one has ever said, “We’ve only five.” It makes me so mad. And it’s not like there were any rhymes in this poem, or any discernible meter that constrained him to write that. Someone just wanted to be a poet and he know it. Here is my Wii haiku:
Wii is cool, you guys
Tender whispers of rain fall
Nintendo nailed it
The worst. Well, this is my last post. It’s been fun, you guys. I’ve learned so much from working with Lindsay. I’m sure it will help me wherever I end up (poetrygum.com).