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Friends Who Have Failed, By Alan Williamson

May 09, 1999

They leave from positions of strength, like all baroque

civilizations; leave the statues we cannot imagine moving

for heaviness caught in the skirts. . . .

We watch their gestures grow finer and more nervous

in the widening air.

They are the best judges of wine; talk always at the

glittering edges

of things, the terrible auras. . . . The afternoons in their

houses

hang upside down, like objects seen through wine.

Their footfalls die an inch away in the carpet.

And leaving, we wonder why the world

has not appreciated this fineness; why clumsier juggling

finds favor in its slow eye. . . .

But we have not understood the world; how its way

is to destroy without destroying, the way air

levels a mountain; things fly apart in a vacuum. . . .

It wears us to the hard thing we cannot help being;

and if the only hard thing is our determination

not to be hard, it wears us down to that.

From "The Handbook of Heartbreak: 101 Poems of Lost Love and Sorrow," edited by Robert Pinsky (Rob Weisbach Books / William Morrow: 158 pp., $18)

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