“Self-Portrait as Alcibiades”

Click here to listen to J.D. McClatchy read this poem.

Draped in a touched-up matron’s trailing purple, I turn back to the haunch, the beaker, the guests. They hate me and cannot do without me. Their talk used to be of my pocket wars, Of the ruined fleet and the satrap’s water garden. Tonight, it is of the god I mutilated.

Why would I, who have no loyalties
But those to my sense of honor and of change,
Try to harm what others are forced to believe in?
The point is to keep what I shall want tomorrow.
If I pull back the drop on which the city is painted,
There is the moon, glistening in its recess.