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PURDY, Al



Married Man's Song


When he makes love to the young girl

what does the middle-aged long-married

man say to himself and the girl?

- that lovers live and desk clerks perish?


When neons flash the girl into light and shadow

the room vanishes and all those others

guests who checked out long ago

are smiling

and only the darkness of her may be touched

only the whiteness looked at

she stands above him as a stone goddess

weeping tears and honey

she is half his age and far older

and how can a man tell his wife this?


Later they'll meet in all politeness

not quite strangers but never friends

and hands touched elsewhere may shake together

with brush of fingers and casual eyes

and the cleanser cleans to magic whiteness

and love survives in the worst cologne

(but not girls' bodies that turn black leather)

for all believe in the admen's lies


In rare cases among the legions of married men

such moments of shining have never happened

and whether to praise such men for their steadfast virtue

or condemn them as fools for living without magic

answer can hardly be given


There are rooms for rent in the outer planets

and neons blaze in Floral Sask

we live with death but it's life we die with

in the blossoming earth where springs the rose

In house and highway in town and country

what's given is paid for blood gifts are sold

that stars' white fingers unscrew the light bulbs

the bill is due and the desk clerk wakes

outside our door the steps are quiet

light comes and goes from a ghostly sun

where only the darkness may be remembered

and the rest is gone