A Freedom-to-Marry Poem

When the two of us are old—me bald of course

and you (it’s so unfair!) a distinguished gray—

we’ll take a stroll the first suggestive day

the yard shows signs of life, and I’ll commend

the shape we both are in, and even you’ll

admit we make a damn attractive pair

for our age (we say in chorus), as we share

the shade and shyly revel in what sun

we dare expose ourselves to (“For an hour?”

“No need to panic.” “Who panicked? All I said

was ‘When both of us are old...’” “And then I said

we both look fine—let’s leave it at that for now.”)

“You said we make a damn attractive pair

which I don’t intend to spoil by sunstroke...”

“In Spring?” “The season when we found our bench,

the perfect one we bought at Pottery Barn

when we wanted a place to sit at the shady end

of the backyard—remember how moss encased it

in weeks (and how the salesman claimed that moss

was a Pottery-Barn Special for May)?” “Well,

so much for sunstroke. I also remember how

our quarrels ended.” “Did they end? How?”

“I’ll show you—maybe the charm still works.

Let me demonstrate, while the mood is high...

“I suspect kisses improve on a piece of furniture

that suggests reclining—let’s try our bench again,

mossy yet rather less messy in the Spring...”

“Strange how memories collect.” “How do they?”

“I said it was strange, that means no one knows.

What’s even stranger is that mine will be

yours as well.” “Well... I know why that is:

it makes a useful arrangement. All those shared

memories—mutual, in common, or just joint—

continuously make between us other links,

even imaginary ones, things we just suppose

we remember, things we’ll prefer to make up,

so that we’ll find, when the two of us are old

—old enough to imagine being young—

we’ll each be living on something that our lives

could never afford us except by being older

than we are, and even older than we were.

Here in this garden, in a May still as young

as we imagined ourselves to be, we’ll collect

all the gold of our youth, and even some

of the fool’s gold, when we can tell them apart.

Thus we’ll reheat our trembling ancient limbs

(how the process will succor our weathered hearts!)

until we believe we’re living in our past,

and then I’ll give you one of my famous smiles,

even though I can’t stop shaking my head

and you’ll remind me of the way you used to talk

even though you can’t help stammering now.

Sitting under the trellis, on our famous bench,

we’ll look into each others’ eyes (shining now

and not just with tears but with real pride)

sharing the shade and shyly revealing

in what sun we dare expose ourselves to

when the two of us are old and I’ll be bold

enough to praise the shape we’re in and you’ll

admit we make a damn attractive pair.” 

This poem appeared in the July 12, 2012 issue of the magazine.