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John Updike

Thoughts While Driving Home

Was I clever enough? Was I charming?
Did I make at least one good pun?
Was I disconcerting? Disarming?
Was I wise? Was I wan? Was I fun?

Did I answer that girl with white shoulders
Correctly, or should I have said
(Engagingly), “Kierkegaard smolders,
But Eliot’s ashes are dead?”

And did I, while being a smarty,
Yet some wry reserve slyly keep,
So they murmured, when I’d left the party,
“He’s deep. He’s deep. He’s deep”?

Chambered Nautilus

How many rooms one
occupies to lead a life! –
the child's small cell,
within earshot of his parents' s
mothered moans;
the college room assigned by number,
a poster-clad outpost of freedom;
the married man's bedchamber,
cramped scene of glad possession
and sneaking sorrow;
the holiday rental,
redolent of salt and sun
and other people's cast-off days;
the capstone mansion
with its curtained pomp;
the businessman's hotel,
a one-night stand whose
trim twin beds and TV sketch
a dream of habitation soon forgot;
the chill guest room;
the pricey white hospital space,
where now the moaning
has become one's own.

Not Cancelled Yet

Some honorary day
if I play my cards right
I might be a postage stamp
but I won’t be there to lick me
and licking is what I liked,
in tasty anticipation of
the long dark slither from the mailbox,
from box to pouch to hand
to bag to box to slot to hand:
that box is best
whose lid slams open as well as shut,
admitting a parcel of daylight,
the green top of a tree,
and a flickering of fingers, letting go.