I wonder how it feels to be inned;
named as a closet straight, extinct, passé,
who never played the games you seemed to play.
What if some sleaze-bag-tabloid-bag-of-wind
rescinds all notions that you’ve ever sinned,
and hints and winks and rumors all convey
the message from Manhattan to L.A.
that you’re sober, steady, disciplined.
And if the vicious rumors multiply –
no drugs, no drinks, no series of affairs –
if out is in, and in is forced to lie,
and nothing quite makes sense, and no cares
about you, just about how you appear,
what impact would this have on your career?
What impact could this have on your career?
You’ve worked so hard to make yourself seem twisted –
the haggard pouts and all night flings, two-fisted
slugs of drugs and booze, a constant sneer –
your photos and your tweets helped engineer
a life whose self-indulgences were listed
as evidence that you, indeed, existed,
if only on the tube, out there, somewhere.
But now it seems exposed as parody:
or so the critics claim – and they should know –
your singer-dancer-fashionista show
is dead as dead can be on Junk TV,
for in a world that dines on out and in,
being inned means you can never win.
Michael Cantor’s full-length collection, Life in the Second Circle (Able Muse Press, 2012), was a finalist for the 2013 Massachusetts Book Award for Poetry. A chapbook, The Performer, was published in 2007; his work has appeared in The Dark Horse, Measure, Raintown Review, SCR, Chimaera, The Flea, and he has won the New England Poetry Club Gretchen Warren and Erika Mumford prizes. A native New Yorker, he has lived and worked in Japan, Latin America and Europe, and presently divides his time between hurricane-threatened Plum Island, MA, and drought-threatened Santa Fe, NM.