Friday, October 28, 2011

A Gift: "The Old Gray Couple"

They have only to look at each other to laugh--
no one knows why, not even they:
something back in the lives they've lived,
something they both remember but no words can say.

They go off at an evening's end to talk
but they don't, or to sleep but they lie awake--
hardly a word, just a touch, just near,
just listening but not to hear.

Everything they know they know together--
everything, that is, but one:
their lives they've learned like secrets from each other;
their deaths they think of this in the nights alone.

She: Love, says the poet, has no reasons.
He: Not even after fifty years?
She: Particularly after fifty years.
He: What was it, then, that lured us, that still teases?
She: You used to say my plaited hair!
He: And then you'd laugh.
She: Because it wasn't plaited.

Love had no reasons so you made one up to laugh at. Lʔok! The old, gray couple!

He: No, to prove the adage true:
Love has no reasons but old lovers do.
She: And they can't tell.
He: I can and so can you.
Fifty years ago we drew each other, magnetized needle toward the longing north.
It was your naked presence that so moved me. It was your absolute presence that
was love.
She: Ah, was!
He: And now, years older, we begin to see absence not presence: what the world
would be without your footstep in the world--the garden empty of the radiance
where you are.
She: And that's your reason?-that old lovers see their love because they know
now what its loss will be?
He: Because, like Cleopatra in the play, they know there's nothing left once
love's away...
She: Nothing remarkable beneath the visiting moon...
He: Ours is the late, last wisdom of the afternoon. We know that love, like
light, grows dearer toward the dark.

-Archibald Macleish


  1. Wonderful poem...we need more poems in our culture today. Thanks for sharing this one.

  2. That is beautiful, Lynne. It's only been 20 years for Morgan & I, but I could relate to much of this as well.

  3. Very nice and apropriate that it is penned by a lawyer! After 39 years of marriage, we can relate. The last sentence of the poem was superb.

  4. stunningly beautiful, Lynne...