MY FIVE GENTLEMEN (by Elizabeth Bartlett)

Prostitutes have clients, wives have husbands,
Poets, you will understand, have editors.
A medieval saint had lice which quietly left him
As his body cooled, their sustenance removed from them.

I have my five gentlemen, one of whom really was
A gentle man, courteous and kind, his rejection slips
Even appeared to be some kind of acceptance,
His face never seen, his care meticulous and honest.

Two was firm and neatly pruned my lines
Like a competent gardener tidying an unwieldy tree.
Faced with mis-spelt, badly typed pages,
He was even provoked into swearing mildly at me.

Three was a witty man, who wrote letters
On a kind of elegant toilet paper, and seen
At a party looked as practised at his social life
As he was at his poetry, though thickening a little.

Four was a shocking surprise. He was not at all
Pretentious. Squinting furtively at him, silent and wary,
I saw this pleasant face, heard a quiet voice, and saw him
Lasting more than a decade or two, a rare animal.

Five is dead, of course. His failing health
Was a comfort to me, though not to him,
Naturally. His death removed one more market
For battered goods, and proved a welcome release.

Rest in peace, I thought (for I always think kindly
Of the gentlemen who direct me to the pages
I am to sit in). I can only hope to be recycled
And end up more useful than I would appear to be.


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