To die in one’s romantic youth: that’s the ticket!
The coffee table is strewn with champagne glasses
and, yes, an empty bottle of barbiturates.
Across the mantel lies a single long-stemmed rose.

At the graveside the November wind whips the raincoats
and umbrellas of the mourners, including
several women with long hair and smudged mascara.
There is of course a dolorous minister
to sprinkle soil and murmur words of regret.

And there must be a slim volume of posthumously
published verse, perhaps entitled Summer Pudding 
or A Beggar at the Fountain. One review says,
“Poignant”; another, “Prescient”...

                                                     ...or maybe not.
To attain to a poetic maturity,
to reach a grizzled and graceful understanding:
these are to be desired while yet desire remains.
And then, despite rheumatic joints and aged flesh,
the words will skip and sing and dance the night away.

January 22, 1999

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