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


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
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.