Young Woman

By Howard Nemerov 1920–1991 Howard Nemerov
Naked before the glass she said,   
“I see my body as no man has,   
Nor any shall unless I wed
And naked in a stranger’s house   
Stand timid beside his bed.
There is no pity in the flesh.”

“Or else I shall grow old,” she said,   
“Alone, and change my likeliness   
For a vile, slack shape, a head
Shriveled with thinking wickedness   
Against the day I must be dead   
And eaten by my crabbed wish.”

“One or the other way,” she said,   
“How shall I know the difference,
When wrinkles come, to spinster or bride?   
Whether to marry or burn is bless-
ed best, O stranger to my bed,   
There is no pity in the flesh.”

Howard Nemerov, "Young Woman" from The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1977). Copyright © 1977 by Howard Nemerov. Reprinted with the permission of Margaret Nemerov.

Source: The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov (The University of Chicago Press, 1977)

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Poet Howard Nemerov 1920–1991

Subjects Marriage & Companionship, Growing Old, Men & Women, Life Choices, Living, Relationships

 Howard  Nemerov

Biography

Howard Nemerov was a highly acclaimed poet often cited for the range of his capabilities and subject matter, "from the profound to the poignant to the comic," James Billington remarked in his frequently quoted announcement of Nemerov's appointment to the post of United States poet laureate. A distinguished professor at Washington University in St. Louis from 1969 to 1990, Nemerov wrote poetry and fiction that managed to engage . . .

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SUBJECT Marriage & Companionship, Growing Old, Men & Women, Life Choices, Living, Relationships

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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