Do Right By Your Fellow Man
– Poem by Anton Yakovlev –
Please allow me to lay down the law for you
to keep you from invading my privacy,
so that you know my boundaries, are clear about them
and never try to pull anything.
Let me answer “no” to a few possible questions,
just so you know the kind of things that would not be appropriate,
then add another “no” just when you think I’m all out,
so you always feel like there’s one more
hiding around the corner, and get humble.
When you pass outside my door, note that I’m very clear
when my door is open and when it’s closed.
None of that half-open door shit (fucking shades of grey).
When it’s closed, don’t come in! (Can you not take a hint?)
But when it’s open, appreciate how I welcome you
and take full advantage of my generosity,
while recognizing, of course, that I am truly generous
to give you any time of day whatsoever.
If I emailed you last night with the invitation
to my tea party, see that you RSVP.
But if you’re not invited and heard about it
through the grapevine—don’t show up! How is that not clear?
I don’t want you around. I might still like you,
but I don’t want you around at my tea party.
And if you’ve only been cc’d,
well don’t RSVP then—I manage my time carefully
and can’t be bothered to sift through the answers
of second-raters. You should still show up,
it’s only the ethical thing to do, but sit in the corner
and don’t talk too loud or say anything stupid.
Try to be on your A-game when riding the elevator.
I do not have time to see doors open
only to discover your dour face.
It’s not like I demand anything extraordinary—
I only expect you to be human.
If you’re in a foul mood, stay home and talk to coyotes.
Sitting outside a gentlemen’s club on Friday,
sipping Vietnamese coffee prepared just the way I like it,
I look out for any performers that have come out
and act as fair as I can, letting each see my face
as much as all the others, without any favoritism—
unless, of course, they are better than others at what they do.
On my way home, I observe blue TV’s in windows
and don’t let any drivel I see on those screens
off the hook of my critical eye.
I only like one film per year, and I intend to keep it that way.
And then, all night, by the clattering of the radiators,
just so they know I’m not fucking around,
I pummel roaches with the precision of an Olympian,
flushing them down into my gentleman’s toilet
while the white walls stare evenly at my face
and no one opens the door to my apartment—
just the way I like them not to—
and dishes in the kitchen are still unwashed,
and hit men wander the streets in search of new marks
but never shoot at my windows or even yell,
allowing me to fall asleep quietly, dreaming my intense dreams
and caring for humankind in all my own special ways
(which really rock, by the way, just in case you’re wondering).
Anton Yakovlev was Born in Moscow, Russia. He studied filmmaking and poetry at Harvard University and has also written and directed several short films. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Hopkins Review, Prelude, Measure, The Stockholm Review of Literature, Amarillo Bay, and elsewhere. He is the author of three poetry chapbooks: Ordinary Impalers (Aldrich Press, 2017), The Ghost of Grant Wood (Finishing Line Press, 2015), and Neptune Court (The Operating System, 2015). The Last Poet of the Village, a book of translations of poetry by Sergei Esenin, is forthcoming from Sensitive Skin Books. Yakovlev won the 2016 KGB Poetry Annual Open-Mic Contest and was a finalist for the 2016 Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award.