He needs so much to put a good face on things
Whether the thing wants him to or not,
He should have been a make-up man in Hollywood.

He seems to think each day is Hallowe’en.
When we go for a walk in this neighborhood
He admits he feels an urge to grab unruly children
And make them stand still long enough for him to paint
A smiling face on every lively one. And adults
He would not exclude: if a grown-up frowns or scowls
Or simply does not look at him acceptingly, he wants
Greatly to hold them in a half-nelson – a half half-nelson
Would do for the ladies — long enough to make them look
Like Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, or dear sweet Sandra Dee.
(If I protest, saying folks have a right to their feelings,
He would take the words from my mouth,
Shuffle them like dice, and slip them back between my lips
So cheerful they would hurt.) He is not my favorite person
To walk with, and I do not go farther than this neighborhood with him,
But he is no fool. He has learned that whatever good face
He wishes to put on things, will never really adhere.

Less addicted now that he is old, he can venture out into public
And sometimes keep the hands of his mind where they belong.
But still any mirror he sees, he gives wide berth.

Poems by Jonathan Bracker appear in The New Yorker, Poetry Northwest, and other periodicals, and in seven collections. He is the editor of Bright Cages: The Selected Poems Of Christopher Morley; co-author with Mark Wallach of Christopher Morley; and editor of A Little Patch Of Shepherd’s-Thyme: Prose Passages of Thomas Hardy Arranged As Verse.