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