Dear Mr. Merrill,
BY MOIRA EGAN
I hope you’ll pardon the informality
of this letter, postmarked Olympia
(Greece, not Washington), its task not simple:
crossing lines you’ve crossed, time, mortality,
to find you, who spent a lifetime crossing lines
out, twisting, polishing them to shine
cool and lustrous as the statue I fell in
love with yesterday. I’m sure you saw him
too, that perfect Hermes by Praxitelis,
full lips, hips contrapposto. I wished to draw him
down, latter-day Pygmalion, and embrace
him. Or barring Eros (and the guards) I’d trace
his face, the supple muscle of the marble.
I had a student who resembled him—
yes, Angelos—arrogant and beautiful.
I never touched him though he touches me in dreams.
Eros dangles his perfection in our faces
like one-armed Hermes with his promise of the grapes.
I was certain I’d dream of him last night.
Instead I dreamed another in the growing chain
of others with whom it ended not quite
right. But the thirst was perfect, if its price pain
and shattered crystal, spilling wine, all part
and parcel of our imperfect lives. Then Art
startles out of heartache, marble or page.
You learned this long ago. Now I too see
the wildest things require the strongest cages,
the panther’s double bars, or the seeds,
bloodysweet and bitter, in the pomegranate’s
rind. Love held tight in a sonnet.
Source: Poetry (June 2002).