. The Life of the Party The commissar, in his most common clothes, Patrols the margins of their conversations, And tries to feign that cheer which he so loathes, But is too cluttered with recriminations To offer more than trite regurgitations Of the most tedious new orthodoxies. Instead he listens while he quietly waits, And, though about as welcome as the pox, he’s Impervious to sighs and tolerates The silences of those he nauseates, So single-minded is he in his cold Determination to avenge some great Humiliation, for so long oversold To sanctify his spite and obfuscate His fear of those who fail to promulgate The party line. In truth he cannot bear To see them free from social trepidation And so each time they laugh without a care It’s yet another cause for consternation, Feeding those feelings of emasculation Which boil behind his weak and watery eyes. But he will make them choke upon his shame, Wielding his impotence to brutalize Some sorry soul who has not played his game, Some sorry soul who he can safely blame For all the faults of their infernal race; So, once he spies some trivial infraction--- A misplaced word or failure to embrace The latest lie---he splutters into action. His well-rehearsed, hysterical reaction Stuns all observers into mute submission, For, though deep down all know what waits ahead, Not one will mewl a word in opposition From fear of being next, struck dumb with dread Of such untold embarrassment. Instead They cringe with mounting horror as his wet And bulging, bloodshot eyes look set to burst And quivering lips spray spittle with each threat Incoherently spat, all interspersed With moans of mocking disbelief. His thirst For marked-down martyrdom outweighs all pride, And, even if he had the will, he could Not stop this minstrel act, undignified Though it may be to covet victimhood At some offense which, in all likelihood, Resides entirely in his fevered mind. The mark soon learns it’s useless to appeal To reason, rights or decency and kind Attempts to pacify just pique his zeal, Prolonging this most onerous ordeal. Much better then to skulk away and lick One’s wounds than to defend a reputation Against the ravings of a lunatic; But, while this might cut short his shrill oration It can’t assuage his lust for indignation So he moves on to find some other dupe, Some other conversation he can crash. Feigning a limp to lull the wary group, He plays his sickly part with such panache That chatter held in check soon grows more rash. And so it goes. The party dwindles one By one as his performance clears the room Until, before too long, the job is done; His throat is ragged, his chin slick with spume But all is still and silent like a tomb. This craven victory though is bittersweet: For what will feed that rage he so reveres If he must dwell alone with his conceit? But then he sets aside such foolish fears As peals of distant laughter prick his ears. . . Shaun C. Duncan is a picture framer and fine art printer who lives in Adelaide, South Australia.