Garret Keizer



I’m beginning to believe what the scriptures tell. — Bob Dylan

Life is not like Beckett.
Only Beckett is like Beckett.
This is much to Beckett’s credit
but in no wise to life’s blame.

Most of us are not waiting for Godot.
We’re waiting for the toast to pop,
the cross-town bus to arrive,
the woman in the row behind us
to get interested enough in the picture
to finally for the love of Christ shut up.

It is amazing, really, how un-amazing it is
that most of the things we wait for come.
(The bigmouth is handed a behemoth
bucket of pacifying popcorn.
It seems that she was waiting too.)
Not the things we fear, and certainly not
the things we conjure, but the things we wait for
honestly—most of them come. Even soldiers,
waited for and after a time given up for dead,
appear once in a while, gaunt impossibilities
at a second husband’s door.

One of the most amazing phenomena many of us
know, an orgasm, is pretty much a wait that can wait
no longer. It comes—so wonderfully that people will say
that they did. They came. There is philosophy in that.

And babies, still more wonderful than orgasms,
also cry out and are waited for, and also mostly come.

There is nothing like this in Beckett,
one reason that of all the great dramatists
he is the least prone to make me horny.
(Don’t you find the theater makes you horny?)
I want to call him chaste but that’s not it,
because chastity can make us horny too.
Something else: Wait. It will come to me.

Sometimes I am in my backyard waiting
for the garden to look saturated, sated
under the swaying nozzle of my hose,
or for paint to dry, or for the burgers to brown,
and it strikes me how the trumpet may sound
and the dead may be raised incorruptible, perhaps
for no other reason than that people were waiting for it,
that a second coming will seem no more than medium rare,

when the Son of man appears in the clouds
as remarkable as but no more remarkable
than a hot air balloon rising over the mountain.
In fact some people will say, “Hey, look!
There’s a hot air balloon rising over the mountain.
That face looks so familiar. Wait, wait, don’t tell me.”
At Rushmore they will think it’s another president.
But when the tribes of the earth begin to wail
theory flies out the window.

Those of us who preferred theater to theory,
and ceremony to belief, who found our clearest window
between those painted drapes, will exclaim,
“This just can’t be happening! This is just
too absurd!” till rising from the ground, beginning
with a flattop haircut, the lined mug of an Irish playwright
will say, “That’s mainly what I was trying to tell you,”

which will be true enough, but only in a minor way,
the main truth being that it wasn’t in the least—

absurd, I mean.

Only a few minutes late, the bus pulls to the curb
and the man who steps up with his token,
still reading his newspaper,
does not feel mocked by the hissing of the doors.


GARRET KEIZER is the author of the prose books Getting Schooled, Privacy, and The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want, and a contributing editor for Harper’s Magazine and Virginia Quarterly Review. His poems have appeared in AGNI, The Antioch Review, The Hudson Review, and Ploughshares, among others.


Read more by Garret Keizer:

A poem in The New Yorker
A poem in The American Journal of Poetry
A poem in Ascent