Thursday, April 12, 2007

Poems in Dialogue

"They Flee from Me That Sometime Did Me Seek"

They flee from me that sometime did me seek
With naked foot stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle tame and meek
That now are wild and do not remember
That sometime they put themselves in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range
Busily seeking with continual change.

Thank'd be fortune, it hath been otherwise
Twenty times better; but once in special,
In thin array after a pleasant guise,
When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,
And she caught me in her arms long and small,
Therewith all sweetly did me kiss,
And softly said, Dear heart, how like you this?

It was no dream: I lay broad waking.
But all is turned from my gentleness
Into a strange fashion of forsaking;
And I have leave to go of her goodness,
And she also to use new-fangleness.
But since that I so kindely am served,
I would fain know what she hath deserved.

-- Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-42)


Before Time

On one or two occasions
It was different: she lingered

At the window, turned—I was
Desirable because for a moment

I was anybody. The distance
Seemed to disappear without us
Moving but more than what followed

I remember the open window.
Taxis idling by the park.
Streetlights shining

Through the hemlock and the usual sounds
Of traffic, shouts—all of it
Starkly present and at the same time

Incomplete; as if a space I'd never
Wanted had been filled

At the moment
I wanted it: branches

Swirling at the window as
Her clothing dropped
To the floor. If I have chance

To thank for this moment
I'd like to know what she deserved.

-- James Longenbach (1959–)


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