Better Late than Never

By Bin Ramke b. 1947 Bin Ramke
I was young once, at least, if not beautiful.
And what is beauty anyway? The light off snow
is pretty. I was young once, as young as any.
After all, she thought, to know the edge
of truth or of mountains, you need to lie or fall.

Everyone has an inner life, O careless love,
it's as simple as that. That's why they hurried
to marry before the month ended—fear of June.
She would avert her eyes from the magazines'
special issues with brides on their creamy covers.

He worked to replace her money he'd squandered.
Then came a time of last intimacy, her injections,
when once a week he'd puncture with the silken needle
her arm, her condition worse with age, her pain
made him wince and call her Dear; her alluring allergies.

From where they retired all views were distant,
nothing true or tender at hand. Mountains to the west
like pets kept for good weather or loneliness
and the need for cold to gloat upon.
They would sometimes think of history together,

of the choked passes which killed, of the grasses of summer
when water was rare and expensive as illicit love.
With the interstate smooth as needles gleaming beneath
the snow-slick peaks, they would think of pioneers
lost and together, alas, two by two, with beds as baggage.

Another edge to be cut on. She loves the little
line of houses or trees in landscapes, the thin
horizons hugely bearing the weight of drama
and of sky with its tooth of cypress or steeple.
And he, while he turned the wheel and tuned the radio,

what was on his married mind? He remembers often,
these latter days, the cousin he first loved,
her marriage to an ugly man when he lit the candles
and wore the little suit his mother made,
and he cried for her because she was only beautiful.

He remembered riding in the car from the library,
having taken a book on Freud because his cousin
was studying Freud, and such studies were forbidden
his Catholic childhood. And riding in the back seat
as his father drove he read about the fountain pen

as phallic, the ink seed of Onan spilled, and he
grew sick and felt the frisson of guilt and glory.
And she was married to an ugly man, but the world
conspires to avert its eyes, and the needle-sharp
peaks hover behind them as the little dashes of white

lines spurt out beneath their car on the highway home,
a little line like spoor marking their path, so easy
to retrace, ready made, like everyone's. So there's
no need to look, just live long, since youth is truer
than beauty, Love; long life and many children.

Bin Ramke. "Better Late than Never" from The Erotic Light of Gardens copyright © 1989 by Bin Ramke and reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: The Erotic Light of Gardens (Wesleyan University Press, 1989)

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Poet Bin Ramke b. 1947

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Subjects Marriage & Companionship, Growing Old, Relationships, Living

Poetic Terms Epithalamion, Syllabic

 Bin  Ramke

Biography

Bin Ramke was born in south Texas, spent time in Louisiana when he was young, and attended the University of Louisiana. Once a student of mathematics, Ramke studied literature as an undergraduate and earned a Ph.D. from Ohio University. Ramke combines these typically disparate interests to inform his poetry. Of Tendril, Ramke’s 2007 collection, John Ashbery wrote, “Bin Ramke’s poetry presents itself as the product of curious . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Marriage & Companionship, Growing Old, Relationships, Living

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Poetic Terms Epithalamion, Syllabic

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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