is the author of two books of poetry, The Hidden Model
(TriQuarterly Books) and Azores
(Swallow Press), a Slate
magazine best book of the year.
He is executive editor of The New Criterion
and teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Western State College of Colorado.
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Bed of Roses
“Life’s no bed of roses” is what they say.
Okay, well, fair enough.
We all know life is tough
(no one I can think of would deny it),
a senseless mayhem banked by mindless quiet.
Brutish, short. And yet we stay
and want to even when our time is up—
especially then, in fact,
our lives a muddy cataract
of taste and touch and sentimental feeling
draining away like shadows from a ceiling,
as we fish pills from a paper cup,
in a semi-private room—our last, we’re told.
So no, no bed of roses.
But before the door closes
for good, it’s worth remembering you do
know more or less the sense that’s meant. Me, too.
I can easily pinpoint the odd
moments when my own skin brushed against
the softer side of life:
diving like a whetted knife
into the sapphire waters of the Med,
or lying naked, hip-to-hip, on a bed
of eelgrass discreetly dense.
Wasn’t that a bed of roses, then?
The exact thing,
or just about. And doesn’t a string
of such bright souvenirs make up our past,
gathered like beams of late sunshine casting
a glow on billowed curtains?
In a very real sense, they’re all we’ve got,
these scatterings of love.
How strange that life should prove
a very bed of roses in the end
and nothing more, strewings of blessings, the kind
we mostly lived for and forgot.
[Originally published in New England Review.]