In a college dorm, in a prison, in a marriage
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Tonight it seems a flowering branch of the tree
of pleasure to sit on my green couch with a tumbler
of scotch and a salted pretzel while people
pretending to be other people wheel
through the toothy gears of their lives.
As the last shreds of violet light melt,
my old dog snores by my side. His arthritic hips
won’t make this leap much longer, and his breath
resembles a rusty pulley dragging its load of precious ore.
On screen people hurry up the stairs
of a Manhattan subway or run to catch a train in Rome
on which their beloved recedes, unaware.
They hop in and out of yellow taxis
that gleam like candies in the rain —
oh, there’s so much rain in movies!
I like the honeyed smoke of the scotch.
I like the crunch of pretzel and the salt.
I like my hand on the dog’s warm flank
as people eat meatballs and spaghetti and someone
spills a glass of red wine and someone sops it up.
I like sitting in my faded bathrobe in my tract house
on my street with too much traffic,
which I can’t hear because now we’re deep
into Dr. Zhivago, and “Lara’s Theme” is surging
as Omar Sharif trudges through the snow,
ice clinging to his mustache and eyebrows.
His passion always makes me think of my old love,
who I still long for even though we were never
hunted down by the Bolsheviks
or worked ourselves into an erotic exhaustion
tending soldiers in an army tent.
We were just too young to know how rare
the golden net thrown over us would prove to be.
Tonight, though, it doesn’t make me sad.
Or the sadness has aged into something almost free
of regret, something I could hardly bear to lose.
This poem originally appeared in Projector.