Poetry 2011 / Volume 42

Paul and Victoria — Eric Paul Shaffer

Paul and Victoria are the people people who think they know us
think we are. To me, they say, “Paul, why don’t you and Victoria

join us?” For drinks. For dinner. For long enough for a crowd
to gather and you to fade from mind and memory as your names do

when we frown to recall them. We rarely and really remember you
only when a use for you occurs, as we think of duct tape, wallpaper,

or a podium to set the stage for a speech for more important guests.
We two know Paul and Victoria are not us, yet they stand for us,

as ciphers saving space for figures of value, as empty cannisters
labeled flour, coffee, sugar, or tea, as otherwise vain actors claim

character from lines inscribed for them to speak. Paul and Victoria
are padded hangers for suits tailored to a P or V, easy to alphabetize,

hard to recognize. They are our quaint quasi-egos, alien only
to us, the two who stand between us and everyone else with a life

of their own. Paul and Victoria attend parties, dinners, weddings
and funerals to assist in other joys and grief. They greet mourners

at the wake, donate hours to good causes and sudden catastrophes,
pin hundred-dollar bills to the bride’s gown. They calm the rowdy

drunken uncle before he makes a scene at the reception or the grave.
All are grateful, and forget to say so, yet our deepest kindness is

never acknowledged, for none think to thank us for accepting that those who
see us as they wish to see us, see us as who we are not.

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