hommage to Lorenz Hart

Some nights, can’t sleep, I draw up a list,
    Of everything I’ve never done wrong.
To look at me now, you might insist
    My list could hardly be long,
But I’ve stolen no gnomes from my neighbor’s yard,
Or struck his dog, backing out my car.
Never ate my way up and down the Loire
    On a stranger’s credit card.

I’ve never given a cop the slip,
    Stuffed stiffs in a gravel quarry,
Or silenced Cub Scouts on a first camping trip
    With an unspeakable ghost story.
Never lifted a vase from a museum foyer,
Or rifled a Turkish tourist’s backpack.
Never cheated at golf. Or slipped out a blackjack
    And flattened a patent lawyer.

I never forged a lottery ticket,
    Took three on a two-for-one pass,
Or, as a child, toasted a cricket
    With a magnifying glass.
I never said “air” to mean “err,” or obstructed
Justice, or defrauded a securities firm.
Never mulcted—so far as I understand the term.
    Or unjustly usufructed.

I never swindled a widow of all her stuff
    By means of a false deed and title
Or stood up and shouted, My God, that’s enough!
    At a nephew’s piano recital.
Never practiced arson, even as a prank,
Brightened church-suppers with off-color jokes,
Concocted an archeological hoax—
    Or dumped bleach in a goldfish tank.

Never smoked opium. Or smuggled gold
    Across the Panamanian Isthmus.
Never hauled back and knocked a rival out cold,
    Or missed a family Christmas.
Never borrowed a book I intended to keep.
… My list, once started, continues to grow,
Which is all for the good, but just goes to show
    It’s the good who do not sleep.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 25 Number 2, on page 30
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