I was digging through some old poems (by old, I mean written when I was in college, some twenty years ago) and came across this one. This, and the others I’ve posted in the series, are classic only to me, and I’ll admit calling this the “classic poem series” makes me laugh.
I remember the context of this piece quite well; it was during a painful breakup. The girl about whom it’s written never read the piece (and is highly unlikely to read this post), which is for the best. I also remember a poetry mentor being critical of the poem, suggesting that I revise it more closely with Larken’s work in mind. I didn’t agree with her then…and I still don’t. The line was a jumping-off point and therefore served its purpose.
The Good Not Done, The Love Not Given*
If I counted the times
I blackened others
with my presence,
you would curse the sky
and dig for solace in the earth
you love so well.
You don’t know defilement like I do,
when it becomes a second skin.
I have fought our extinction
for long enough, but I remember
touching you in the right places
at the right times, and your manic
screams that told me I would live forever.
Sex is broken origami now,
paper-thin and disabled.
I could be a Zen master,
so controlled is my breath
when you walk by.
I break into your room later
and place pennies on your sleep-locked eyes.
Outside the night gathers on dark legs,
and I love everything except you.
*from Philip Larken’s “Aubade”