Tuesday Poem


Did you know T. S. Eliot wore eye shadow
I asked Stanley, and he chuckled—one
gurgle in the bubble chamber
of the spirit level—and his eyes had that sensual
brightness, and his big, fleshless, elegant
hand lifted, and soared over, and dropped,
a couple of times, on the back of my hand, like
being patted by matter. I didn’t
know that,
he musicalled up.
Someone said he’d dust his lids
with green, so someone would say, “Are you
okay, Tom,”
and Stanley said,
It’s a hard way to go about doing that,
and I rubbed the heel of my hand over the rough
nest-material of Stanley’s tweed
sleeve, and said, You have a generous heart, I
sometimes laugh at Eliot for that, like some
kind of revenge on his politics—
what about you, Stanley, what were your
feelings about him?
And Stanley
drew on time, and space, he drew on
his powers, and their sleep, and their dreams, he worked,
like God not resting on the sixth day,
and then, when his thought was done, he turned his
long, loping engine toward the task
of telling it, word by word. He said, I was,
and paused—I love to pause with him, on the
long boat, our hands trailing in the
water of a hundred years—I was,
pause, pause, we breathe in,
we breathe out, I was fortunate
in my marriage,
he said, and we went, again,
out into the empyrean
of quiet, beyond the atmosphere,
overboard, and then the return,
and then the refrain, I was fortunate,
I think,
and I rubbed his invisible weaving
with my thumb, and said, You were, you were—
you loved and were loved.
He nodded, his arms and
body still, he wondered as he wandered,
out under the sky, I was fortunate
in my marriages, I think,
he said,
But still, there was all that sorrow, he turned his
face to me, I petted the wool like a
stanch made of spider wodge with some
roots and twigs in it, over his
forearm, he looked into my eyes with that stalwart look,
I put my hand on the mastodon
of his buoyant hand, which was resting, now,
as a swimmer at the end of a stroke may glide,
may glide, desire, desire, rest,
desire. When I
had let myself in,
he’d been facing the other way, signing
books, and I had put the huge
stargazer lily over his shoulder, like
a horse looking over a stall gate, and he’d
turned and seen it, in surprise and pleasure, and
recognized it, and took its head in his
hands and softly rubbed its five ears.

by Sharon Olds
from Narrative Magazine