A Man May Change
–Marvin BellAs simply as a self-effacing bar of soapescaping by indiscernible degrees in the wash wateris how a man may changeand still hour by hour continue in his job.There in the mirror he appears to be on firebut here at the office he is dust.So long as there remains a little moisture in the stains,he stands easily on the pavementand moves fluidly through the corridors. If only onecloud can be seen, it is enough to know of others,and life stands on the brink. It rainsor it doesn’t, or it rains and it rains again.But let it go on raining for forty days and nightsor let the sun bake the ground for as long,and it isn’t life, just life, anymore, it’s living.In the meantime, in the regular weather of ordinary days,it sometimes happens that a man has changedso slowly that he slips awaybefore anyone noticesand lives and dies before anyone can find out.
You Would Know
–Marvin BellThat you, Father, are “in my mind,”some will argue, who cherish the presentbut flee the past. They haven’t my needto ask, What was I? Asking instead,What am I?, they see themselves bejeweledand wingèd. Because they would fly and have value,their answers are pretty but false:the fixings of facile alchemists,preferring their stones to brains.The brain, remember, is not foolproofeither, and does and does until it can’t.Sodden, quivering, crossed and recrossed,the mind can become a headstoneor be malice stuffed with fish.Everything changes so quickly. You who wereare no longer and what I was I’m not.Am I to know myself, except as I was?The rest is catchy, self-promising, false.Oh please write to me, and tell me.I just want to be happy again. That’swhat I was, happy, maybe am, you would know.
Song of Social Despair
–Marvin BellEthics without faith, excuse me,is the butter and not the bread.You can’t nourish them all, the deadpile up at the hospital doors.And even they are not so numerousas the mothers come in maternity.The Provider knows his faults—love of architecture and repair—but will not fall into them for long:he can’t afford the adolescent luxury,the fellowship of the futurelooks greedily toward his family.The black keys fit black cylindersin the locks in holes in the night.He had a skeleton key once,a rubber arm and complete confidence.Now, as head of the family, he isinevitably on the wrong side looking out.