Back to Country with Pulitzer

I left here at eight
And returned at 75.
In between
I largely wasted America.
I married, had children,
Distinguished myself in a profession
Full of fools, becoming one myself,
As is the way
Of this (or, I suppose, of any other) world.
I missed
The Nobel but I did bring down
The Pulitzer. The weather,
The politics, the stars,
And my own small contribution
All lined up, and I got one.
So “Pulitzer” became my middle name
Before I came here, where no one cares
A whit about such things.
I failed at love.
That’s where I truly fucked up.
I couldn’t.
The women in this town
Are mostly severe, resentful
—The men bitter, disappointed:
A perfect place for my purposes.
I stay in a room
In the house of an old woman
Who doesn’t want to have sex any more
And neither do I
So we do not
Trouble each other on that front,
Which is good.
I do like to drink.
I used to love to eat
But then I don’t much
Give a shit
About any of that now.
The old woman sometimes says wistfully
God will soon be calling both of us
Back home, but as an agnostic
I don’t believe that.
As an American,
I don’t buy that.
I came here to retire from love,
To face my failure to love
As I attempted to face everything
Else before, and that
Is exactly what I am doing and doing
With the exactness I used to put into
My work, for which I received the Pulitzer.
I hate a coward.
My son
Came here the other day and asked
Exactly when I might
Be coming back
And I sent him off without an answer.
The answer
Seems to be staying here,
Staying honestly here and coming to terms
With my greatest single failure.
My wife is dead. To me,
It seems I am left over
To eat a shit sandwich.
“Eat me,” the world says,
Now that I have lost my appetite.
We used to say, “Eat me”
To each other in high school,
Another thing from which no one
Ever recovers. America likes to think
Every one can recover from every thing,
But about this,
Especially, America is wrong.

Liam Rector, "Back to Country with Pulitzer" from The Executive Director of the Fallen World. Copyright © 2006 by Liam Rector.  Reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.
Source: The Executive Director of the Fallen World (The University of Chicago Press, 2006)
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