If  See No End In Is

By Frank Bidart b. 1939 Frank Bidart
What none knows is when, not if.
Now that your life nears its end
when you turn back what you see
is ruin. You think, It is a prison. No,
it is a vast resonating chamber in
which each thing you say or do is

new, but the same. What none knows is
how to change. Each plateau you reach, if
single, limited, only itself, in-
cludes traces of  all the others, so that in the end
limitation frees you, there is no
end, if   you once see what is there to see.

You cannot see what is there to see —
not when she whose love you failed is
standing next to you. Then, as if refusing the know-
ledge that life unseparated from her is death, as if
again scorning your refusals, she turns away. The end
achieved by the unappeased is burial within.

Familiar spirit, within whose care I grew, within
whose disappointment I twist, may we at last see
by what necessity the double-bind is in the end
the  figure  for human life, why what we love is
precluded always by something else we love, as if
each no we speak is yes, each yes no.

The prospect is mixed but elsewhere the forecast is no
better. The eyrie where you perch in
exhaustion has food and is out of  the wind, if
cold. You feel old, young, old, young: you scan the sea
for movement, though the promise of  sex or food is
the prospect that bewildered  you to this end.

Something in you believes that it is not the end.
When you wake, sixth grade will start. The finite you know
you fear is infinite: even at eleven, what you love is
what you should not love, which endless bullies in-
tuit unerringly. The future will be different: you cannot see
the end. What none knows is when, not if.

Source: Poetry (October 2007).

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This poem originally appeared in the October 2007 issue of Poetry magazine

October 2007
 Frank  Bidart

Biography

Frank Bidart’s first books, Golden State and The Book of the Body, both published in the 1970s, gained critical attention and praise, but his reputation as a poet of uncompromising originality was made with The Sacrifice, published in 1983. All three books are collected In the Western Night: Collected Poems 1965-1990. His position in American letters has been solidified through his later works, including Desire, Star Dust, and . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Coming of Age, Growing Old, Death, Relationships, Love, Faith & Doubt, Realistic & Complicated

Poetic Terms Sestina

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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