Like Plates Washed Clean

John Updike (1932 – 2009)

  

It is easy to love people in memory; the hard thing is to love them when they are there in front of you.

John Updike

September 

by John Updike

The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Chrysanthemums.
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze.


Elderly Sex

by John Updike

Life’s buried treasure’s buried deeper still:
a cough, a draft, a wrinkle in bed
distract the search, as precarious
as a safecracker’s trembling touch on the dial.
We are walking a slack tightwire, we 
are engaged in unlikely acrobatics,
we are less frightened of the tiger than
of the possibility the cage is empty.

Nature used to do more – paroxysms
of blood and muscle, the momentous machine
set instantly in place, the dark aswim
and lubrication’s thousand jewels poured forth
by lapfuls where, with dry precision, now
attentive irritation yields one pearl.

Who Will Do It Again?

John Updike (1932 – 2009)

“Only the curious have, if they live, a tale worth telling at all.”

Alistair Reid

Perfection Wasted

by John Updike

And another regrettable thing about death
is the ceasing of your own brand of magic,
which took a whole life to develop and market-
the quips, the witticisms, the slant
adjusted to a few, those loved ones nearest
the lip of the stage, their soft faces blanched
in the footlight glow, their laughter close to tears,
their tears confused with their diamond earrings,
their warm pooled breath in and out with your heartbeat,
their response and your performance twinned.
The jokes over the phone. The memories packed
in the rapid-access file. The whole act.
Who will do it again? That’s it: no one;
imitators and descendants aren’t the same.


Poem Without Ends

by Alastair Reid

One cannot take the beginning out of the air
saying ‘It is the time: the hour is here’.
The process is continuous as wind,
the bird observed, not rising, but in flight,
unrealised, in motion of the mind.

The end of everything is similar, never
actually happening, but always over.
The agony, the bent head, only tell
that already in the heart the innocent evening
is thick with the ferment of farewell.