Rita Dove

Shakespeare Say

He drums the piano wood,

Champion Jack in love
and in debt,
in a tan walking suit
with a flag on the pocket,
with a red eye 
for women, with a
ear, with sand
in a mouthful of mush —

poor me
poor me
I keep on drifting
like a ship out
on the sea

That afternoon two students
from the Akademie
showed him the town.
Munich was misbehaving,
his ass to ice
while his shoes
soaked through. His guides
pointed at a clock
in a blue-tiled house.
And tonight

every song he sings
is written by Shakespeare
and his mother-in-law.
I love you, baby,
but it don’t mean
a goddam thing.
In trouble 
with every woman he’s
ever known, all of them
ugly — skinny legs, lie gap
waiting behind the lips 
to suck him in.

Going down slow
crooning Shakespeare say
man must be
careful what he kiss
when he drunk,
going down
for the third set
past the stragglers
at the bar,
the bourbon in his hand
some bitch’s cold 
wet heart,
the whole joint

stinking on beer;
in love and winning
now, so even the mistakes
sound like jazz,
poor me, moaning
so no one hears:

my home’s in Louisiana,
my voice is wrong,
I’m broke and can’t hold
my piss;
my mother told me
there’d be days like this.