Mr. I. Solomon, the cloak-&-suit merchant
   Guards a taut ulcerated colon;
Hospitalized for surgery; not too urgent;
   He’s still got lots to go on:
Seventy-six, with stout heart, a stouter wife,—
   Despite the season’s heat,—
It’s good, nevertheless: what’s left of life.
   Life can be sweet.

Fifteenth floor of a semi-private pavilion;
   No pain; an air-conditioned bed.
Estimate his gross estate, at least three million,
   Maybe more, for he’s not dead
Yet. He’ll fox them, junior partners camped in the hall;
   Sniffs their sullen waiting;
Daily, with limp dahlias they flock to call,
   Hoping, hating,—

His wobbly persistence, his rude contempt for fate.
   How does he do it? Ah, why can’t
Their famous surgeon get on with it; operate,
   So they can : plan? Their old plant
In dire need of repair; he’s vetoed repair;
   The same with his spastic gut:
No better business. Unfair; just lies there.
   Won’t let ’em cut.

For years they’ve been prodding their elder to die,
   Him,—who mainly created it,—
A great trade-name. Checking how to sell and buy,
   Too long he’s dictated it,
Methods, models. Old-fashioned. Now they’ll edge in,
   Haul it all up-to-date:
New patterns, policies. But,—when to begin?

You old fool! Old. Fool? He’ll appear to be willing;
   Colon, impatient, pops to bleed.
A pride of partners, lean lions poised for the killing
   Overmasters choking greed
Amounting to murder. Aquiline parasites
   Stifle the shameless yawn;
Stand by. He consents at the nod of cool nights;
   Recants by dawn.

Surgeon, (whose ally?) waits on the shaken old man
   Who’ll license suave serpentine hands.
Naive professional, smooth barbarian,
   Grudges time, anxious demands
On full schedules. Shrewd, stubby, swift safe-cracker’s fingers
   Itch. He’s hot; let him slice.
Say the word. Between thin gums “yes” malingers
   His word’s on ice.

I. Solomon, you’ve lived long enough. Now you’re through,—
   Their churlish choir mutters loudly
At ebbtide, but the thrice twisted tripes of a Jew
   Bred to survive, though proudly
Fleshed, still skilled to slim margins, bets he’s yet to be blessed
   Go ahead. Operate.
He’ll spend no mere panic on further protest.
   Internes palpate

A ripe old tum to shave its slack sack without haste.
   Youths measure cross-hatchings of age;
From their chill survey deem such work as sheer waste
   Save for practice at their stage
In careers which cherish cadavers. It’s seven:
   Start the scalpels’ slim rite;
Cross-stich on the cross-hatch. Leave him to heaven.
   Fought’s the good fight.

Partners figure futures, fat wreaths at the end:
   Black-bordered ad for mourning Times:
“In respect for our beloved founder and friend
   We close Friday.” Dollars, dimes
Lost to a shuttered day are well worth it. Hence, sleep,
   Israel Solomon.
We’re briefly in debt to your death. But, he’ll keep
   Still and hang on.

For, stoutheart, they’re wrong. Surgeons, partners, wrong. Internes
   Confounded in shallow surprise.
Confused merchants, technicians with loads still to learn
   Widen incredulous eyes.
I. Solomon wins, who’ll here piously erect
   A private pavilion
To salvage elders and better. Cost? Project
   Three cool million.

This Issue

October 14, 1976