Late Night Ode

By J. D. McClatchy b. 1945

It’s over, love. Look at me pushing fifty now,
    Hair like grave-grass growing in both ears,
The piles and boggy prostate, the crooked penis,
    The sour taste of each day’s first lie,

And that recurrent dream of years ago pulling
    A swaying bead-chain of moonlight,
Of slipping between the cool sheets of dark
    Along a body like my own, but blameless.

What good’s my cut-glass conversation now,
    Now I’m so effortlessly vulgar and sad?
You get from life what you can shake from it?
    For me, it’s g and t’s all day and CNN.

Try the blond boychick lawyer, entry level
    At eighty grand, who pouts about overtime,
Keeps Evian and a beeper in his locker at the gym,
    And hash in tinfoil under the office fern.

There’s your hound from heaven, with buccaneer
    Curls and perfumed war-paint on his nipples.
His answering machine always has room for one more
    Slurred, embarrassed call from you-know-who.

Some nights I’ve laughed so hard the tears
    Won’t stop. Look at me now. Why now?
I long ago gave up pretending to believe
    Anyone’s memory will give as good as it gets.

So why these stubborn tears? And why do I dream
    Almost every night of holding you again,
Or at least of diving after you, my long-gone,
    Through the bruised unbalanced waves?

J. D. McClatchy, “Late Night Ode” from Ten Commandments. Copyright © 1998 by J. D. McClatchy. Reprinted with the permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

Source: Ten Commandments (Alfred A. Knopf, 1998)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet J. D. McClatchy b. 1945

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Living, Growing Old, Love, The Body, Time & Brevity, Desire, Unrequited Love, Heartache & Loss, Realistic & Complicated

Poetic Terms Ode

 J. D. McClatchy


J.D. McClatchy’s poetry is marked by formal adeptness, lyrical control and a wide range of influences—including classical literature, music, and opera. Praised for their polished, erudite surfaces as well as the depths of thought, philosophy, and feeling beneath the facade, McClatchy treats subjects as diverse as Japanese history, the body, and his own autobiography. Often depicting the unsettling and disturbing realities that . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Growing Old, Love, The Body, Time & Brevity, Desire, Unrequited Love, Heartache & Loss, Realistic & Complicated

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Ode

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.