Maples in a Spruce Forest, Erotic Epigrams, Wind: Poems

Maples in a Spruce Forest

They live by attenuation,
Straining, vine-thin,
Up to gaps their gold leaves crowd
Like drowning faces surfacing.

Wherever dappled sun persists,
Shy leaves work photosynthesis;
Until I saw these slender doomed,
I did not know what a maple is.

The life that plumps the oval
In the open meadow full
Is beggared here, distended toward
The dying light available.

Maturity of sullen spruce
Murders these deciduous;
A little while, the fretted gloom
Is dappled with chartreuse.

(June 2, 1961)

 

Erotic Epigrams

I

The landscape of love
can only be seen
through a slim windowpane
the viewer's breath fogs.

II

Iseult, to Tristan
(condemned to die),
is like a letter of reprieve
which is never delivered
but he knows has been dispatched.

III

Hoping to make a mirror, the lover
polishes the face of his beloved
until it becomes a skull.

(June 14, 1963)

 

Wind

If God has any voice it is the wind.

Women hate
this seeking of a vacuum,
it gets their edges up,
they cannot sleep, they think
of Boreas impregnating primeval Night,
of skirts rudely lifted in funhouses.

It is death made loud:
nowhereness bellowing,
now reedy along the copper eaves,
now ballooned to a manifold softness by a tree,
now scraping like flint on the surface of water,
making arrowhead wrinkles,
seeking somewhere to stop and be.

Wind carves. It makes mesas
and heaps up waves as a rich man plays
with remote corporations that swallow and shift
poor fish by the thousand.
I lie here listening.

Wind carves. It makes mesas
and heaps up waves as a rich man plays
with remote corporations that swallow and shift
poor fish by the thousand.
I lie here listening.

In its mouth my body tastes like stale milk.

(January 21, 1972)

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John Updike (1932-2009), writer of the "Rabbit" series, was an American novelist, short story writer, and poet. 

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