OUR LAST BEST COMPANIONS / H.Y.

Our last best companions linger inside and wait to be summoned --
like chauffeurs in the pantry, or firemen, playing rummy
round a painted table, in easy reach of that bright brass pole,
or an old man who learned everything there was to know, except
how to keep gravy from dripping onto his lapels, --
learned everything and then was sent away

for fear he might disrupt -- with wisdom -- or gravy.

Our last best companions linger inside --
brooding on our inattention -- resenting.
They cannot leave without us, and as they wait
for the sound of a bell that does not come
or the sight of our late-afternoon sheepish faces
showing that we've come back at last and are ready to play --
or listen --

Our last best companions linger inside
and when we finally call, suddenly brighten
and without a single chastising question
are right there beside us -- for the evening.