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The Unacknowledged

[Composed anonymously on letterhead emblazoned with a sigil of crossed swords. Asked whether he had written it, Mr. Garamond shook his head. Asked whether I should publish it, he slowly nodded. —Ed.]

I practice law wherever I can practice.

I partner fluidly with countless firms.

I, like my rival, live on my own terms.

It’s fair to say that similar things attract us.

I grant you, mine’s the less exalted trade—

the more despised, yes—but the final line

of every book is dotted, and is mine.

Mine are the words of which the world is made.

In “legalese” (a term I do not care for),

in the hermetic tongue all earthly tribes

assign to faceless ranks of harried scribes

heaving an unheard sigh with every “Wherefore”;

in language neither fanciful nor factual,

in prose that specifies but does not mean—

denser than Kant and ten times more obscene

than the most lurid curse—in cool, contractual,

intricate clauses, itemized conditions,

I implement (or else compose) those laws

that seem to have the cosmos as their cause.

My greatest triumph lies in my omissions.

I leave my private stamp on wills and deeds,

annulments, plea deals, petty litigation,

amended drafts of prominent legislation,

and fine print no sane person ever reads.

My powers could place my rival in a cell;

could, in a flash, cost him his house, his boat,

his clothes, his name—for what it’s worth, his vote—

but I prefer to see him pace that hell

he has inherited. Oh, I know each

pitfall, each snare his privileges entail;

the point at which his best defense will fail;

the hidden source of his internal breach—

but knowledge isn’t action. Or intent.

Meanwhile he keeps the fight up, files his long

complaint against a world that’s done him wrong…

This world. My world. The thing I represent.

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