Ambrose Bierce

Despite the bitterness that hits the tongue
when you first taste his clever barbs of prose,
and one’s initial gumption to suppose
his wit just tiny pearls amidst some dung,

there is in Bierce an underlying faith
in humankind, despite his cynic’s guise;
it shows itself no matter how he tries
or fancies life a trifling, mundane waste.

His sorrow, I think, comes from knowing much
of the dark underbelly, which he fights
against by piercing shadows of the night
that meet the world of light at twilight’s touch.

To chronicle life’s whole palette is his aim,
beyond the lines and simple white and black;
and so, his characters are flawed, and lack
the standard heroes’ virtues. In his frame,

the villains wear the white hats, and the good
can be perverted or mislead by ruse;
great ladies, too, pass wind; the mighty lose
to freaks of chance, when you least think they should.

With Ambrose as our culture’s looking-glass,
we gain needed perspective on ourselves;
the less authors like him are on our shelves,
it’s far more likely that we are an ass.

07 MAY 2005

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