I ease you down, your strings set loose
      A tone or three, all twinkle gone,
Into this snug case shaped like a goose
      Or casket for some crook-necked swan,

Your body wrapped in satin cloth,
      Head nestled between blocks of foam,
Lid latched against woodworm and moth
      Then stacked in our attic catacomb

While I, who used to warm and tease you
      Thumbing your belly’s deepest cords,
Keep wondering couldn’t we deepfreeze you
      Or lift you on some rocket towards

The icy waste space beyond Mars
      Unfingered by earth’s atmosphere
To shine out with the clearcut stars
      In some show-stopper of the spheres.

Just keep cool, love; no fault of yours
      Consigns us to this long exile;
Medical science may yet find cures
      For age and carpal tunnel. Meanwhile,

There’s not too much left up this sleeve.
      I growl like Melchior, lingering
On stage to ask: “When’s the next swan leave?”
      And what’s left now I could still sing?

Go lie with lovenotes and snapshots. You
      Were just too fine a vice to last.
Condemned to virtue, we thumb through
      The evidence of our misspent past.


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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 23 Number 10, on page 29
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