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For John Berryman

(After reading his last Dream Song)

The last years we only met
when you were on the road,
and lit up for reading
your battering Dream—
audible, deaf…
in another world then as now.
I used to want to live
to avoid your elegy.
Yet really we had the same life,
the generic one
our generation offered
(Les Maudits—the compliment
each American generation
pays itself in passing);
first students, then with our own,
our galaxy of grands maîtres,
our Fifties’ fellowships
to Paris, Rome and Florence,
veterans of the Cold War not the War—
all the best of life…
then daydreaming to drink at six,
waiting for the iced fire,
even the feel of the frosted glass,
like waiting for a girl…
if you had waited.
We asked to be obsessed with writing,
and we were.
Do you wake dazed like me,
and find your lost glasses in a shoe?

Something so heavy lies on my heart—
there, still here, the good days
when we sat by a cold lake in Maine,
talking about the Winter’s Tale,
Leontes’ jealousy
in Shakespeare’s broken syntax.
You got there first.
Just the other day,
I discovered how we differ—humor…
even in this last Dream Song,
to mock your catlike flight
from home and classes—
to leap from the bridge.

Girls will not frighten the frost from the grave.

To my surprise, John,
I pray to not for you,
think of you not myself,
smile and fall asleep.

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