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