Is the poem about death again?
you ask and of course it’s about death,
they’re all about death,
every poem ever written—ever—is about
death. Lyrics? Death. Love poems? Death.
Ballads, odes, epics? Death! I guarantee you
that the man from Nantucket is deeply concerned
about his own mortality. He will die, the flowers
will fail, and the sun will burn out like someone’s
forgotten cigarette. I will die, and you, my only love,
will die as well. In light of which the sensible course would be
to spend the remaining moments of our too-brief lives
in bed, with wine and maybe some pie to sustain us,
sleeping the luxurious hours between desire and desire.
But we are too American.
Except for the occasional vacation in Italy,
where they don’t have good pie but make up for it
with sex in the afternoons, we turn love and fear
into work, and I am sitting in bed scribbling
as if words could save anything from anything. History
does not record whether Mr. Marvell finally got laid,
only reprints his poem again and again so that generations
of high school students can appreciate the anatomical specificity
of his vegetable love—and also the opportunity to hear
their teachers say "adore each breast" out loud in class—
but three-hundred and fifty years out he still loves her fair self
and so I would you. If no one reads this except our nieces,
going through our papers when we’re dead (hello, girls!),
astonished, as the young always are, to find
that they have not invented sex after all, still, let them
know this: what we had was made of time.
That it could not last was always the point.