Dear boy—of course let’s meet again,
but expect nothing.
Oh, there are always possibilities, a new
delusion, a new vow: vows are easily made
to narcissistic obligation. And that hurts.
I’m the same at forty as I was at seventeen.
Frustrated forty, frustrated seventeen—
of course they can meet, blurt out ideas
converging on problems between which two decades
gape, an entire lifetime,
problems that only seem to be the same—
until a word escapes from hesitant throats
parched by tears and a shared desire to be alone
and reveals our irreparable distance.
Together? I’ll feel compelled to play the Poet-
Father still, then I’ll fall back upon irony
and that will embarrass you, a man of forty
smiling and younger than someone seventeen,
someone henceforth a Lord of Life.
Beyond pretense and appearance
I have nothing to tell you.
I’m miserly; what little I possess
I clutch close to my diabolic heart.
The two palms of skin between cheekbone
and chin, the stiff mouth tired by timid smiles,
the eye that has lost all grace
and sweetness, like a soured fig—
they would seem to you the very portrait
of that maturity that gives you pain,
nothing fraternal about it. What use can you have
for a contemporary, one made melancholy
by the leanness that devours his flesh?
What he gave you, he gave you; the rest
is pity, and dry.

This Issue

November 22, 1984