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June 28, 1992

When I returned from lovers' lane

My hair was white as snow.

Joy, incomprehension, pain

I'd seen like seasons come and go.

How I got home again

Frozen half dead, perhaps you know.

You hide a smile and quote a text:

Desires ungratified

Persist from one life to the next.

Hearths we strip ourselves beside

Long, long ago were x'd

On blueprints of "consuming pride."

Time out of mind, the bubble-gleam

To our charred level drew

April back. A sudden beam . . .

Keep talking while I change into

The pattern of a stream

Bordered with rushes white on blue.

From "James Merrill: Selected Poems 1946-1985" (Knopf: $25; 339 pp.). Merrill is the author of 11 books of poems. He has also written two novels, two plays, and a book of essays. 1992 by James Merrill.

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