People

Who are all these people…
ducking into boutiques, bouncing out
of cafés, younger, taller than ever—
Generation Dude? Generation
type w/my thumbs? We used to be
them, of course, only they don’t
have quite our panache, our cast
of characters; their dreams seem
so counterfeit; their exploits
pale in comparison to ours

as ours pale in comparison to the
madcap hijinks of the Rat Pack—
that jazz-crooning, highball-drinking,
fedora-wearing, celebrity-roasting,
mafioso-befriending, skirt-
chasing, ingénue-divorcing
cadre of song-and-dance men
that owned the strip and
ruled the night from Vegas
to Hollywood to Broadway,

predated, in turn, by young John Keats
and his circle of loyal Cockneys—
Brown, Hunt, Haslam, Severn—
who defended their bright star
from epically stupid critics,
and risked their lives to be with him
when he was coughing blood,
and Percy Shelley wrote from Italy
offering to nurse his rival—
a shimmering of humanity

that could never hope to rival
the ten-thousand-year sliver of time
in which a late Neanderthal spotted
an early Home sapiens across a clover field,
eyeing the humble hominid
of smaller head and smoother brow
with what had to be an emotion
unprecedented in human, or non-
human history, uttering (more or less)
“Who the fuck are you?”