I Met My Solitude

I met my Solitude. We two stood glaring.
I had to tremble, meeting her face to face.
Then she saying, and I with bent head hearing:
“You sent me forth to exile and disgrace,
 
“Most faithful of your friends, then most forsaken,
Forgotten in breast, in bath, in books, in bed.
To someone else you gave the gifts I gave you,
And you embraced another in my stead.
 
“Though we meet now, it is not of your choosing.
I am not fooled. And I do not forgive.
I am less kind, but did you treat me kindly?
In armored peace from now on let us live.” 
 
So did my poor hurt Solitude accuse me.
Little was left of good between us two.
And I drew back: “How can we stay together,
You jealous of me, and I laid waste by you?
 
“By you, who used to be my good provider,
My secret nourisher, and mine alone.
The strength you taught me I must use against you,
And now with all my strength I wish you gone.” 
 
Then she, my enemy, and still my angel,
Said in that harsh voice that once was sweet:
“I will come back, and every time less handsome,
And I will look like Death when last we meet.” 
 

The Weeping Sea Beast

Tentacled for food,
You range your underwater neighborhood.
 
To look, to like, to eat, to break your fast! 
Before you move an inch an hour is past,
 
Your prey is past, a swarm of scales, an eye,
A round fish eye, a rude unblinking eye.
 
You close on nothing; slowly you untwine
Your many arms and trail them through the brine.
 
Now sailors at the surface hear you cry,
And from those heights they cannot fathom why.
 
For there are agile creatures all around
Who dart like flames through this rich hunting ground
 
And others who lie still and gaping wide
And make no move; but armies come inside.
 

An Inheritance

Five dollars, four dollars, three dollars, two,
One, and none, and what do we do?” 
 
This is the worry that never got said
But ran so often in my mother's head
 
And showed so plain in my father's frown
That to us kids it drifted down.
 
It drifted down like soot, like snow,
In the dream-tossed Bronx, in the long ago.
 
I shook it off with a shake of the head.
I bounced my ball, I ate warm bread,
 
I skated down the steepest hill.
But I must have listened, against my will:
 
When the wind blows wrong, I can hear it today.
Then my mother's worry stops all play
 
And, as if in its rightful place,
My father's frown divides my face.
 

Catalogue

1.
My blurring eyes, my deafened ears—
O careless sadism of the years!
 
Sun-loving and sun-ravaged skin—
One-sided love has done you in.
 
My teeth—less said, less missed!—my heart—
My runaway, my telltale heart—
 
Heart whose misfirings can defeat
The pulse of this iambic beat! 
 
(While hypochondria detects
Whatever ill it hears of next.)
 
2.
In couplets that are not heroic
I try to say, in accents stoic:
 
For every rusting body-fetter
Perhaps my wit will work the better.
 
I will not be subservient
To every ruined ligament!
 
I'll prove on my anatomy
A body-mind dichotomy!
 
3.
Brave words! No use! I cannot force
Such an unnatural divorce.
 
My body! You have stood by me
Through insult and through injury
 
Some eighty years. How can my mind,
Seeing you slow, not lag behind?
 
Its sharpness dulls, yet feels each ache.
How not to mourn for your sweet sake?
 
My generous, my failing host,
O do not yet give up this ghost.
 
Kindle for me a little spark,
For I am whistling in the dark.
 

Related Poems

The solitude of an apricot

Away from leaf touch, from twig.
Away from the markings and evidence
of others. Beyond the shale night
filling with rain. Beyond the sleepy
origin of sadness. Back, back into
the ingrown room. The place where
everything loved is placed, assembled
for memory. The delicate hold
and tender rearrangement of what is missing,
like certain words, a color reflected off 
water a few years back. Apricots and 
what burns. It has obtained what it is.
Sweet with a stone. Sweet with the
concession of a few statements,
a few lives it will touch without bruising.