Nobody wants to be Manning, not even I want to be Manning,
says Manning. (He’s just discovered he’s tragic.)

Putting aside your understandable distrust,
your well-earned wariness of the gratuitous,

I’d like you to picture Manning in Cary Grant’s role
in whatever scene bubbles up

from the black leaves, that rot at the bottom
of memory’s pond, when I throw

this log in it and disturb that torn
and noiseless past.

Perhaps you see him, as I do, from behind,
as he sprints, now crisp in doublet and hose

for the cover of the tall corn, his left hand
steadying his rapier’s grip

as its rubber-tipped tip describes, over and over,
the same elaborate, stupid rune in the embarrassed
air behind him as it’s jolted by the rhythm
of his running.
Perhaps you too smell the crop duster’s dust
and feel what goggled Marcie feels—
some smart gape in her darkening that’s made of
poor Manning’s righteous incongruity.