The retail banker in his cubicle
Will speak of his great-aunt, or cherish photos
He plucked from her estate sale, with some dull
Soporifics so quaint they must be no pose.
But jealous of the little powers his branch
Manager gives like souvenir coffee cups,
He drops the sweet talk—as Acton says, corrupt—
To charge this late fee or repossess that ranch.
Inclined to think the salesman’s smile cheap paint,
The earnest confidence less pearl than swine,
And every pinned lapel a scoundrel’s feint,
We bathe our sentiments in turpentine;
Suspect adultery in our neighbor’s nest;
Leave love and faith in nursing homes to rot
Where they feed on those innards we forgot;
And mock our innocence for its hollow chest.
But discontented sipping irony,
The occasional citizen will hear a drum
Sounding with more than antique vibrancy.
He wanders through the alleys till he comes
Upon an old flag in the collective attic:
Too plain for casual appreciation,
Enduring every age’s violation,
Its crest grown true, more bloody, and more vatic.