. . . the wise and wry observation which the young William Butler Yeats offered
one evening in The Cheshire Cheese to his fellow young poets in the Rhymers Club:
"None of us can say who will succeed, or even who has or has not talent. The only
thing certain about us is that we are too many.
— Paul Carroll
The tyranny of poets: "Like." O we were like
the infinite regression of roe, in the sex crease
of a sturgeon. We were like — what? like, as numerous
as the stars, the grains of sand, the uses of "like" itself.
Too many of us. Too flakes of snow, too fish
in the deep, too waterbugs of Florida. In the thick air
of the evening Cheese, a muss-haired Willie Yeats stares out
across a bobbing sea of schnockered literary faces
and he sees, as if implied in these, the overmany faces
of the shantytowns, and the Chinese steppes,
and the grim Malthusian banks of the Ganges river
on a holy day . . . too many of us. Those birds
slouched on the wire have served as a bar of music now
in how many poems? as a squadhouse lineup
in how many poems? as heavy portents over
the words in the wire itself, how many times?
Too many many-of-us. That zero now, the "black hole"
of the astronomers . . . by now it's the rose
and the willow and the rainbow and the nightingale
of two generations of us; string theory is easily the sunrise
over the Mediterranean Sea of us. "I think of . . ." then
a historical reference, Mendel, Bruegel, Mata Hari,
how many times? The prize and the prize and the prize.
A swarm of prizes. I think of William Butler Yeats,
a sloshy evening spent in fellowship with his kind. Some
have a scribbled paper with them. Some, a published pamphlet.
All of them have dreams to share. "Inside of every fat man
there's a skinny man waiting to be let out." And inside every
too many of us is a me. Right now, a hundred me
are lifting up their pints and toasting Yeats's observation.
The Humor Issue
Volume CLXXXVI, Number 4