Late Night Ode


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)
More Poems by J. D. McClatchy