Week 110: Art and Reality, by James Simmons

James Simmons (1933-2001) was one of a generation of fine Ulster writers. I admire this poem for its mix of truthfulness and rueful tenderness, though one has to wonder if the object of the poet’s contemplation was quite so enamoured of it: ‘Huh, so much for twenty years of diet and exercise, remind me again why I bothered…’

Art and Reality

From twenty yards I saw my old love
Locking up her car.
She smiled and waved, as lovely still
As girls of twenty are.

That cloud of auburn hair that bursts
Like sunrise round her head,
The smile that made me smile
At ordinary things she said.

But twenty years have gone and flesh
Is perishable stuff;
Can art and exercise and diet
Ever be enough

To save the tiny facial muscles
And keep taut the skin,
And have the waist, in middle-age,
Still curving firmly in?

Beauty invites me to approach,
And lies make truth seem hard
As my old love assumes her age,
A year for every yard.

James Simmons


1 thought on “Week 110: Art and Reality, by James Simmons

  1. Dear David
    I have every reason to apologize for answering your kind mail fom November including your fine poems so late. I was really gratefuol to read your message and your poetry. But I had very busy weeks and beaurocratic / red tape problems to solve in which I felt I might not live up / write up to the high expectations and standards of a native speaker and poet like you. In the meantime
    wonderful Rilke poems and Eliot´s “East Coker” helped me to get to sleep late at night.
    Again you have chosen a very impressive piece of modern poetry,
    I especially like the consummation pointing to the conflict of the poetic self feeling torn between affection and recognizing the biological calculator in himself.
    Congratulations on your fine choice and helpful introduction.
    Wishing you pleasant a weekend under December skies.

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