On Not Having Written King Lear
I don’t have to tell you what it’s like: you know.
It’s just like never having written Middlemarch
or walked on the moon. You know that most
people have never written Middlemarch
or walked on the moon and yet still get to eat jam
and toast, and stroll with their beloveds
past the cemetery, over the bridge to Main Street.
You know that what you can’t do is also worth
celebrating as a source of relief or gratitude,
that love comes only from not being the same
as what you love, that everyone is just one person
and cannot step out of themselves and be
everywhere, as the ponderous afternoon light
that is falling and slightly pink is everywhere.
It’s Saturday. So many people have come out
to browse the lonely shops, happy to just look,
to do nothing. But that’s something,
just as our beloved promising that this
wrecked wicker armchair can be saved and made
to catch the light again is something: proof
our love is good enough, our masterpiece
to see, to feel awe, at anything,
to let our dumb-struck silence make things whole.
Dinner in Xanadu
How relieved we were when the man from Duluth
said the beluga-tongue soup was good, but not as good
as the dandelion soup he’d had one summer
as a child in Labrador. And when the Finnish twins
said how they missed the way, back home,
the sorrows of strangers would become their sorrows,
we all nodded while the next course was prepared
in front of us: white cobra hatchlings drowned in wine.
Then the Sri Lankan asked the waiters
where the master was, saying that only he
could teach us how to stomach these new joys,
how to prefer them to familiar griefs.
But there was no reply: only a sound like weeping
coming from the master’s room. And so
we kept on eating: squirrel-tongue mousse,
poached emu eggs, a butterfly confit.
Maybe tomorrow would be better: black swan
stuffed with songbirds, and the bee wine at peak fizz.
And maybe not. Maybe the present always
has to be endured, even in paradise. Maybe
what’s gone is always brighter than what is.
Michael Lavers teaches poetry at Brigham Young University, Utah. He is the author of After Earth, published by the University of Tampa Press. His poems have appeared in Crazyhorse, 32 Poems, The Hudson Review, Best New Poets 2015, TriQuarterly, and the Georgia Review. He lives with his wife, writer and artist Claire Åkebrand, and their two children, in Provo, Utah. He won the £5,000 Bridport poetry prize with his poem ‘Low Tide’, in November, 2020.