You whom he pressed so closely that you shied,
So he could not reach you—
You whom he could not touch
As he touches you now,
Twenty years later, with his sonnet—

Poor, square fretwork. Over you—
Your banded wings, your shielded breasts,
Your trained, resilient bangs,
Your thonged and lacquered toes—
He made himself a fool.

Now you feel, some days, like a dried-up stalk,
To be played by the wind. You hold
The wrung hands, the spread fingers
Laid without pressure on the door,
As if to wave it open—

So you, batting your lashes, might fly away,
From room to room and floor to floor,
Daring his pent-up wishes to alight you—
As if your shyest wish could open,
After these years, that door.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 4 Number 3, on page 34
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