Dana Gioia is Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at the University of Southern California. He is the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and was a corporate executive at General Foods. He has published three collections of poetry, three books of criticism, an opera libretto, and several translations and edited texts.

Interrogations at Noon

Just before noon I often hear a voice,
Cool and insistent, whispering in my head.
It is the better man I might have been,
Who chronicles the life I've never led.

He cannot understand what grim mistake
Granted me life but left him still unborn.
He views his wayward brother with regret
And hardly bothers to disguise his scorn. 

"Who is the person you pretend to be?"
He asks, "The failed saint, the simpering bore,
The pale connoisseur of spent desire,
The half-hearted hermit eyeing the door?" 

"You cultivate confusion like a rose
In watery lies too weak to be untrue,
And play the minor figures in the pageant,
Extravagant and empty, that is you."