November 1999

Richard Moore

Richard Moore Richard Moore's tenth book of poems, The Naked Scarecrow, is to be published by Odyssey Press in December, 1999. (His first book was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.) He has also published a novel, a book of criticism, and translations of ancient Greek and Roman plays. Over six-hundred of his poems and prose pieces have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and over eighty other magazines.

Gloom    Click to hear in real audio

Prerequisite: Gogol's "The Overcoat" 

On rainy days and drizzly
you'll find him working busily, 
half-starved, unslept, alone, 
nosing a big grindstone. 
No sunlit meadows tempt him, 
titillate, and preempt him; 
for you know, friends, a jerk 
like him just loves to work, 
his lifestyle mean and tacky 
like Gogol's weird Akaky. 
One mustn't, then, assume 
it's all unpleasant, gloom. 

Akaky loved to copy, 
just copy: silly, soppy! 
No thought, no grand creating; 
just slavish imitating: 
as Aristotle called it, 
the play of children. Scald it 
and boil it, that potato! 
Despicable, said Plato. 
We need social awareness, 
a sense of cosmic fairness, 
maturity, the balm 
of philosophic calm. 

Akaky lost or hid it. 
His childishness undid it, 
his mockery, his glory. 
It's all there in the story: 
true symbol, no mere gimmick, 
Gogol himself, the mimic. 
The overcoat to aid him 
and comfort him betrayed him. 
It-she-read and believe!—
caressed him, soft as Eve, 
poor man, whose blessed day 
never knew work, just play. 

Akaky was her Adam, 
she his resplendent madam. 
Did God, who made her, fail her? 
Him God, that one-eyed tailor? 
Cursing in drunk dishevel, 
Petrovitch was The Devil: 
the story of The Fall 
told truly after all. 
Once Eve was fashioned, groomed, 
Adam, who'd slept, was doomed: 
all men fated to hate her; 

The Devil, her creator. 
No longer staying home, 
copying from some tome, 
he took her to a party, 
elegant, gay, and arty: 
left his true play for vanity 
and Petersburg's inanity. 
As always, such a change'll 
bring an Avenging Angel. 
Stumbling homeward, where 
his path crossed a vast square—
what tore off her caress? 
Petersburg's emptiness. 

Feminists, do not rage; 
I just quote Gogol's page. 
Dig him up, desecrate him, 
and let him know you hate him, 
but my muse, don't berate her. 
I'm just an imitator. 
Addled, a little wacky, 
I too am like Akaky. 
O cursed be he who dotes 
on senseless overcoats! 
He merits his distress: 
messed with his blessedness. 

Indeed the day is gloomy. 
Indeed it's getting to me. 
I undervalue comfort 
who often sing and hum for't. 
We cynics know earth becks 
and calls. Its voice is sex. 
Because it's many-girled, 
there's beauty in the world. 
That kind thought came my way 
here on a rainy day. 
One mustn't, then, assume 
it's all unpleasant, gloom.



Richard Moore: Poetry
Copyright 1999 The Cortland Review Issue NineThe Cortland Review