Emperors by Stephen Dunn
On my ripped, screened-in porch,
The black flies had at me, no fault
but mine. Of all things in the world
unfixable, that screen wasn’t one.
I was the emperor of in-between,
Of perhaps, of someday soon.
The newspaper said war. This time
its funnies weren’t funny enough
to show us who we were.
My favorite second baseman
had gone 0 for 5—there it was,
in black and white. How many of us
could bear a daily record
of exactly what we’d done?
Dark clouds moved in
from the west. The wind hid itself
in the pitch pines and oaks,
always invisible when still.
Mendacity and love, high spirits
and gloom—nothing new.
Somewhere in between
we tried our best.
The dog huddled by my legs
Anticipating the storm
From her window a mother summoned
her child who yelled “No”
and then “Please.” And though
he knew what was coming,
or maybe because he knew,
the emperor across the street
kept mowing his lawn