They both seem so much older now than I—
can this be so? Do women age like dogs,
or something out of Wilde? Seven years
for every one we live? He cuts her meat.
Good God, that inward stare! I loved her so.
The self-absorption’s thickened like her hide.
I knew all this before, of course. I knew.
And got out early like the pig I am.
She’s jowly, tense. Elderly. It’s nineteen years …
What was Elena saying as they left?
Arm in arm, as if I’d ceased to be?
They walked along the garden for an hour,
Elena kindly offering E. her laugh.
Two women, arm in arm, whose toes I’ve—
What? What’d I say? Blurted something out—
but what? It must have been unpleasant: clouds
are forming on the brow of Mt. Monadnock.
I’ve added to the burden of his days!
Good Christ, am I going through the change?
Why are they looking at me with such hate?
Why can’t I just remember what I said?
We’ve drunk too much; we always drink too much.
I hear Herself—she calls my name loudly,
a tone of bemusement hiding her rage:
“So are you going to pass him the gravy,
or must the three of us go over there,
and by God take the boat by force?” I see
Elena’s face, alarmed; I look at Gene,
his face savage, full of remorse; then down
at those gravy-less potatoes. I stare
again at E., at E.—are we all insane?
“Of course,” I mumble, “the gravy.” I look
about wildly—thank God, it’s near my plate!
Is there no window in this goddamn house?
-- by Jim Cummins
(Paris Review & Harpers)
Ed note: Read more about Millay in here.
This post originally appeared on Dec 28, 2009