–Margaret AtwoodThese are the late poems.Most poems are lateof course: too late,like a letter sent by a sailorthat arrives after he’s drowned.Too late to be of help, such letters,and late poems are similar.They arrive as if through water.Whatever it was has happened:the battle, the sunny day, the moonlitslipping into lust, the farewell kiss. The poemwashes ashore like a flotsam.
Or late, as in late for supper:
all the words cold or eaten.
Scoundrel, plight, and vanquished,
or linger, bide, awhile,
forsaken, wept, forlorn.
Love and joy, even: thrice-gnawed songs.
Rusted spells. Worn choruses.
It’s late, it’s very late;
too late for dancing
Still, sing what you can.
Turn up the light: sing on,