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Nancy and Dwayne, Danville, Virginia, 1970

     after a photograph by Emmet Gowin

Before the curator mentioned sex I hadnít seen her
bliss as sexual, and even after the curator mentioned sex
I preferred to consider her bliss to be the bliss of saints
and artists at the moment of death. How else to describe
her face? Has sex ever felt like that, that eternal, I mean?
The boy has nothing to do with it: heís simply the grass-
clad figure sheís exerted herself against. His body has
brought her to this final exhaustion in which such bliss
is possible: in this he is like a day of gardening, or cooking,
whatever it is that makes people sigh when they lie down.
And her hand resting so gently against his ear and neck,
near where his haircut is perfected, one of those remarkable
haircuts of boyhood it seems impossible for barbers to give
men: this is not affection for his body, only the bliss of having
been defeated. And itís quite possible sheíll never know this
kind of bliss again, the sky will never be so bomberless,
the boy never so sweet. The next time he huddles over her
he may be a grown man with a bad haircut in the pain
of orgasm. They cannot rest forever. They must rise
against nightfall and as the dark ebbs its ignorant water
into everything, Nancy and Dwayne must hose blades
of grass off each otherís bodies, shivering as if afraid.

Austin Smith

The Yale Review

July 2013

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