To grow old is to lose everything.
Aging, everybody knows it.
Even when we are young,
we glimpse it sometimes, and nod our heads
when a grandfather dies.
Then we row for years on the midsummer
pond, ignorant and content. But a marriage,
that began without harm, scatters
into debris on the shore,
and a friend from school drops
cold on a rocky strand.
If a new love carries us
past middle age, our wife will die
at her strongest and most beautiful.
New women come and go. All go.
The pretty lover who announces
that she is temporary
is temporary. The bold woman,
middle-aged against our old age,
sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand.
Another friend of decades estranges himself
in words that pollute thirty years.
Let us stifle under mud at the pond’s edge
and affirm that it is fitting
and delicious to lose everything.
Love is Like Sounds
Late snow fell this early morning of spring.
At dawn I rose from bed, restless, and looked
Out of my window, to wonder if there the snow
Fell outside your bedroom, and you watching.
I played my game of solitaire. The cards
Came out the same the third time through the deck.
The game was stuck. I threw the cards together,
And watched the snow that could not do but fall.
Love is like sounds, whose last reverberations
Hang on the leaves of strange trees, on mountains
As distant as the curving of the earth,
Where snow still hangs in the middle of the air.
If he and she do not know each other, and feel confident
they will not meet again; if he avoids affectionate words;
if she has grown insensible skin under skin; if they desire
only the tribute of another’s cry; if they employ each other
as revenge on old lovers or families of entitlement and steel—
then there will be no betrayals, no letters returned unread,
no frenzy, no hurled words of permanent humiliation,
no trembling days, no vomit at midnight, no repeated
apparition of a body floating face-down at the pond’s edge
The Young Watch Us
The young girls look up
as we walk past the line at the movie,
and go back to examining their fingernails.
Their boyfriends are combing their hair,
and chew gum
as if they meant to insult us.
Today we made love all day.
I look at you. You are smiling at the sidewalk,
dear wrinkled face.
It’s a thematic alignment… letting someone go who is on the edge of death, or who has in fact already departed… but of whom those who remain cannot let go.
Today it has been two years already since Paul died, and I don’t imagine a single day has been easy for those of us who have, each in our individual and private ways, had to let him go.