Privilege of Being

Many are making love. Up above, the angels
in the unshaken ether and crystal
of human longing
are braiding one another’s hair, which is
strawberry blond
and the texture of cold rivers. They glance
down from time to time at the awkward ecstasy–
it must look to them like featherless birds
splashing in the spring puddle of a bed–
and then one woman, she is about to come,
peels back the man’s shut eyelids and says,
look at me, and he does. Or is it the man
tugging the curtain rope in that dark theater?
Anyway, they do, they look at each other;
two beings with evolved eyes, rapacious,
startled, connected at the belly
in an unbelievably sweet
lubricious glue, stare at each other,
and the angels are desolate. They hate it. They
shudder pathetically
like lithographs of Victorian beggars
with perfect features and alabaster
skin hawking rags
in the lewd alleys of the novel.
All of creation is offended by this distress.
It is like the keening sound
the moon makes sometimes,
rising. The lovers especially cannot bear it,
it fills them with unspeakable sadness, so that
they close their eyes again and hold
each other, each
feeling the mortal singularity of the body
they have enchanted out of death
for an hour or so,
and one day, running at sunset, the woman
says to the man,
I woke up feeling so sad this morning
because I realized
that you could not, as much as I love you,
dear heart, cure my loneliness,
wherewith she touched his cheek to reassure him
that she did not mean to hurt him with this truth.
And the man is not hurt exactly,
he understands that life has limits, that people
die young, fail at love,
fail of their ambitions. He runs beside
her, he thinks
of the sadness they have gasped and crooned
their way out of
coming, clutching each other with old, invented
forms of grace and clumsy gratitude, ready
to be alone again, or dissatisfied, or merely
companionable like the couples
on the summer beach
reading magazine articles about intimacy
between the sexes
to themselves, and to each other,
and to the immense, illiterate, consoling angels.

– Robert Hass

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