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The End

by Wesley McNair

How quaint lovemaking was in the old
movies, the lovers saving it for the end
which was called The End, and all
dressed up for it, though everybody knows

the whole idea is to take your clothes off
as they do in films today, undoing each other
button by belt buckle because they can't
wait to start their love scene,

which is the old one upside-down,
not a grand finale of faces confessing
to each other, but interlocking legs
and thighs leading to the heads

of the waitress and the guy she met at the end
of the night shift, grimacing and panting.
Life is simply like that, the next day
comes through the curtains and he discovers

she has a kid who doesn’t like him,
or she can’t look him in the eye
because he wasn't able to perform
and the shrink, who made him recount

all this, looks up from his notebook
in the sudden quiet of his office
with professional curiosity. Not us,
we understand he was trying too hard

to forget the lover he broke up with,
or perhaps he was using this one-night stand
to escape the threat of her career,
or maybe the shrink is talking to a woman

who turns out to be the daughter
of the waitress, in trouble with men
because she had no father and her mother
slept around. Poor kid, in a woman’s body,

which we are bound to see every
part of as she searches for fulfillment
on her own dark island of shifting legs
and thighs: it’s not easy to find love

today, when there’s too little of it
or too much with the wrong person.
But just for tonight, my love,
let’s break out the popcorn and bring back

the old hero, who pushes the hair
away from the face of his lover
as he holds her, lost in that sky.
Let's pretend with them that love is not

an island, but a wide shore at the end
of all life’s sorrows, where lovers
can meet at last to live on nothing
but the light in each other's eyes.


Wesley McNair’s poem “The End” will appear in his new book of poems, The Ghosts of You & Me (Godine) early in 2006. He recently received his second Rockefeller Fellowship for creative work at the Bellagio Center, on Lake Como in Italy. (7 /2005)

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