Where the Successful Live
j. T. Barbarese
Sometime during the course of that year of mild happiness all my friends disappeared into sweet destinies. One into disgust at my failure, one into horror at his own, one into success as if into a swank restaurant, one into a book contract for a book even he didn't like, and meanwhile Tom Blank at least once a week stalked me, or interrupted me, as he just did, with harebrained commentaries, and appeals in the earnest drag of serious questions. When is it proper to do task X? Why do authorities counsel plan Y? What do you think of idea Z? And inevitably the translation is Are you going to let me live and pass your course?
Whenever Tom comes by I always imagine how I must appear to my ex-friends. The only rowboat heading back to the Titanic, an acre of toxic back-yard seen from the metroliner, a loud stupid face accidentally caught in the picture, or maybe I am Tom Blank, with his brush haircut and sneaks and his simple white pants trying to persuade the world that he is authentic when authenticity is beyond even the Tom Blanks, Tom with his overflossed overbite and horsey voice, his half-solved life, his unlovable prose, Tom Blank with his lust for success, Tom Blank who sits in the first row and stares up at me as if I had invented him,
J.T. Barbarese is the author of two books of poetry from the University of Georgia Press, Under The Blue Moon (1985) and New Science (1989). His translation of Euripides' The Children of Herakles appears this spring as the last installment in the Penn Greek Drama Series, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press. This year he is a visiting assistant professor in creative writing at Rutgers University, Camden. Please address correspondence to Academic Questions / NAS, 575 Ewing Street, Princeton, NJ 08540-2741, .