James Simmons – Art and Reality

This is one of my favourite poems by James Simmons. The author, David Park, quoted the last line to me at a reading of his book The Poets’ Wives. Shameless name dropping, I know, but I was thrilled to have been able to share the admiration for this poem with another Northern Irish writer.

Seamus Heaney used a similar last line device in his tragic poem Mid-Term Break …..A four-foot box, a foot for every year.

Art and Reality

From twenty yards I saw my old love
Locking up her car.
She smiled and waved, as lovely still
As girls of twenty are.
That cloud of auburn hair that bursts
Like sunrise round her head,
The smile that made me smile
At ordinary things she said.
But twenty years have gone and flesh
Is perishable stuff;
Can art and exercise and diet
Ever be enough
To save the tiny facial muscles
And keep taut the skin,
And have the waist, in middle-age,
Still curving firmly in?
Beauty invites me to approach,
And lies make truth seem hard
As my old love assumes her age,
A year for every yard.

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