Better Days

By A. F. Moritz b. 1947
Never anymore in a wash of sweetness and awe   
does the summer when I was seventeen come back   
to mind against my will, like a bird crossing   

my vision. Summer of moist nights full of girls   
and boys ripened, holy drunkenness and violation   
of the comic boundaries, defiances that never   

failed or brought disaster. Days on the backs   
and in the breath of horses, between rivers   
and pools that reflected the cicadas' whine,   

enervation and strength creeping in smooth waves   
over muscular water. All those things accepted,   
once, with unnoticing hunger, as an infant   

accepts the nipple, never come back to mind   
against the will. What comes unsummoned now,   
blotting out every other thought and image,   

is a part of the past not so deep or far away:   
the time of poverty, of struggle to find means   
not hateful—the muddy seedtime of early manhood.   

What returns are those moments in the diner   
night after night with each night's one cup of coffee,   
watching an old man, who always at the same hour   

came in and smiled, ordered his tea and opened   
his drawing pad. What did he fill it with?   
And where's he gone? Those days, that studious worker,   

hand moving and eyes eager in the sour light,   
that artist always in the same worn-out suit,   
are my nostalgia now. That old man comes back,   

the friend I saw each day and never spoke to,   
because I hoped soon to disappear from there,   
as I have disappeared, into the heaven of better days.

Source: Poetry (November 2003).


This poem originally appeared in the November 2003 issue of Poetry magazine

November 2003
 A. F. Moritz


A.F. Moritz (Albert F. Moritz) is the author of more than 15 books of poetry; he has received the Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Relit Award (for Night Street Repairs, named the best book of poetry published in Canada in 2005), an Ingram Merrill Fellowship, and a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation. A Canadian citizen, Moritz was born in Ohio and moved to Canada in . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Summer, Growing Old, Nature, Painting & Sculpture, Arts & Sciences, Coming of Age


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