I was supposed to meet Monica, my secretary, at
Three o’clock: where was she? I felt like a ruffian,
Standing in the infield, watching the wind whirl away
Lost tickets. A policeman approached. A citation
Of some sort? No, he tipped his cap. “Sir Barton?”
He inquired, most respectfully. Yes, I affirmed—
What is it? “Just routine,” the cop affirmed.
I felt like a low-ranking diplomat at the UN Secretariat
Accused of spying for Belgium. Would the real Sir Barton
Avoid his inquisitor’s eyes as I did? No ruffian,
He, but a master of codes, ciphers, and encrypted citations
In fortune cookies. (“Autumn comes, goes, and whirls away.”)
I cleared my head … That world was world’s away
From this one. The policeman’s handshake was a firm,
Live thing. He pulled an envelope from his book of citations,
Then blushed. “Sir, I—I spoke with your secretary at—”
Scrawled across pink flowers, in Monica’s ruffian
Hand, was what the young man pointed to: ‘Sir Barton.’
“Huh,” I said thoughtfully. What was Monica doing at Sir Barton,
My estate, where I go to get away from the social whirl? Away—
I needed to whirl away. Having no choice but to play the ruffian,
I slugged the cop and ran. My masculinity thus affirmed,
I felt good. But there was still the question of my secretary. At
A loss I looked up her name in the index. Two citations
For cigar smuggling. Wait, what’s this? A third citation—
A monograph! Horrified, I read: “The Life and Times of Sir Barton”!
The scamp! The exploiter! Hastily, I cell-phoned the Secretariat.
“Adlai!” I shouted, “Adlai!”—but I watched my words whirl away,
As I realized, with a shock, Adlai was dead. I was alone, a firm-
Ament of pain my sole sky. I was, at last, one of the roughs. “Ian!”
I said, catching sight of James Bond’s creator. In the rough and
Tumble of life, the man stood erect, in an obvious state of excitation.
What the cop had intimated about Monica was true, he affirmed.
Indeed he had just spent a delightful day with her at Sir Barton.
All of them were in on the plot. It was, well, an LA way
Of doing business.Everything was for sale, even the name “Secretariat.”
After his recitation of the specials—including orange roughy and
Pepsi—the waiter whirled away.Sir Barton sighed.The rather, ah, firm
Haunches of the lad reminded him of that great warrior, Secretariat.
(from Jim and Dave Defeat the Masked Man by James Cummins and David Lehman. Illustrations by Archie Rand. Soft Scull Press, 2005)