“[The Age We Live In]” by Virginia Smith

Virginia Smith


By virtue of being a woman alone,
there are men who assume interest

on my part must be personal and
              sexual. This is not true

of all men—only those I have met: or not met:
              or smiled at: or passed in the street.

A free-floating assumption, I know, adrift
beneath words, making it almost a favor

when a man I was partnered with
at a conference introduced himself
as very, very married, giving me a chance

              to relieve him directly
by declaring myself very, very lesbian:

a thin-bright, only slightly bitter lie,
and nothing like real desire, which is more
              violent: unswerving: rare.

              You are here now,
face hidden in hands, refusing again

to believe in a beginning that keeps bringing
              us back to this point

of leaving: my leaving, yours. I tell you to
step into this moment, toward another

and another, toward me, but the truth is
you will make of me what you can, and I
              have to let you

return to before I existed, real desire wanting real
              erasure:     days     months     years

I have stood nearly fifty in this body,
              long enough

to grow unashamed of want without trying
to make an art of it. Long enough to know
              what I have: each night

from Rattle #40, Summer 2013


Virginia Smith: “I wrote ‘[The Age We Live In]’ while (pretty clearly and happily) under the influence of Larry Levis. I like his idea that writing poetry is a way of using your whole mind up, all the way. Poems have this incredible ability to embody the most adult and intimate language it is possible to imagine, and I try to jump in at the highest level I can, every day.”

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