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At the End of a Ninetieth Summer

They drink their cocktails in the calm manner
of their middle years, while the dim lights
around the swimming pool make shadows
of that world they've almost fully entered.

Like Yeats's wild swans their uneven number
suggests at least one of them is no longer mated.
Added up, their several ages are short of a millennium.
This means the melting ice cubes are silent music beneath

their slow talk, and slow talk is how gods murmur
when eternity comes to an end.
The way it feels for these friends who amaze themselves
with what they remember—not the small details—

but how long ago lives happened and how fast.
Occasionally, usually from the wives, there's mention
of the War, as if they'd endured before waiting like this,
except now there's no uncertain homecoming,

no life to be beginning and nothing to complete
that doesn't wear already the aura of completion.
Listen, they are laughing. One eases himself up
to refill his drink. His wife, in a wheelchair, wants one, too.

Another makes a joke about making it a double
and gets up to help. They are gone so long,
or not long enough, that someone asks,
"Where's Bob and Jim?"

Now and then a tentacle of the robot vacuum
submerged in the pool breaches the surface,
squirts a welcome spray of water
then retracts where it continues its random sweeps,

until it breaks into the air again.
Bob and Jim are back, the drinks get passed,
even so Jim's wife asks, "Where did you go?"
Instead of answering, he raises his glass.

Michael Collier

An Individual History
W. W. Norton

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