Saturday, November 19, 2005

23. FOR SHERIDAN - Robert Lowell

We only live between
before we are and what we were.

In the lost negative
you exist,
a smile, a cypher
on old-fashioned face
in an old-fashioned hat.

Three ages in a flash:
the same child in the same picture,
he, I, you,
chockablock, one stamp
like mother’s wedding silver—

gnome, fish, brute cherubic force.

We could see clearly
and all the same things
before the glass was hurt.

Past fifty, we learn with surprise and a sense
of suicidal absolution
that what we intended and failed
could never have happened—
and must be done better.