Older than us, but not by that much, men
Just old enough to be uncircumcised,
Episcopalians from the Golden Age
Of schools who loved to lose gracefully and lead—
Always there before us like a mirage,
Until we tried to get closer, when they vanished,
Always there until they disappeared.

They were the last of a race, that was their cover—
The baggy tweeds. Exposed in the Racquet Club
Dressing room, they were invisible,
Present purely in outline like the head
And torso targets at the police firing
Range, hairless bodies and full heads of hair,
Painted neatly combed, of the last WASPs.

They walked like boys, talked like their grandfathers—
Public servants in secret, and the last
Generation of men to prefer baths.
These were the CIA boys with EYES
ONLY clearance and profiles like arrowheads.
A fireside frost bloomed on the silver martini
Shaker the magic evenings they could be home.

They were never home, even when they were there.
Public servants in secret are not servants,
Either. They were our gods working all night
To make Achilles’ beard fall out and prop up
The House of Priam, who by just pointing sent
A shark fin gliding down a corridor,
Almost transparent, like a watermark.

This Issue

April 2, 1981