Gabriel Welsch

The Expensive View

—title taken from a line by D. Nurkse
He spoke about his wife in pursed euphemism—
“We decided to raise our children with one
parent always at home.”
From his suit—chalked and smooth at once—
to his shoes, soft calf bellies like a gilding
for the foot, I expected a tumbler of whisky
in Manhattan’s throb of afternoon—
a clear tumbler, to see the amber
bought with lavish time and oak—
but he drank water, from a thin tap
behind his uncluttered desk. I was there
to write a fawning story of what he’d earned
to a less affluent readership, but the expensive view
kept drawing me to its jumbled progression
of stacked deeds pointing to the sea.
Of course he drank water! Afternoon drinkers,
the reprobate among us, earn indulgence but rarely
an aerie for surveying those who would undo them.
The expensive view, so much real estate, so much cost
of all that is buried under this leafless jungle,
and this man in the bunker of his euphemisms—
“I’ve done what it takes,” he says. “It’s like the song:
if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.”
I wrote later that his hair swept back like a Renaissance
poet’s, let him chuckle at his own wit, his depiction
of himself as a bygone dilettante. I want to say
I felt the cheap sting of my own smugness, knowing
the card house of my own euphemisms stood tall
as well. I thought him rich, pompous, a stretch
of his own skin and wit. I couldn’t look at him,
except to find details: platinum lapel pin, jade cufflinks,
chin cleft, mole behind the ear. The tape ran
while I took in the view, a sky as clear as his forehead,
not a cloud or a plane or even a reflection of light
off of the ocean that, from here, looked so small.

Gabriel Welsch
The Expensive View was first published in Harvard Review, Vol. 26, Spring 2004.
Poem, copyright © 2004 by Gabriel Welsch
Appearing on From the Fishouse with permission
Audio file, copyright © 2005, From the Fishouse