Poem of the Week

Do the Others Speak of Me Mockingly, Maliciously?

by Delmore Schwartz

“As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man”

Do they whisper behind my back? Do they speak
Of my clumsiness? Do they laugh at me,
Mimicking my gestures, retailing my shame?
I’ll whirl about, denounce them, saying
That they are shameless, they are treacherous,
No more my friends, no will I once again
Never, amid a thousand meetings in the street,
Recognize their faces, take their hands,
Not for our common love or old times’ sake:
They whispered behind my back, they mimicked me.

I know the reason why, I too have done this,
Cruel for wit’s sake, behind my dear friend’s back,
And to amuse betrayed his private love,
His nervous shame, her habit, and their weaknesses,
I have mimicked them, I have been treacherous,
For wit’s sake, to amuse, because their being weighed
Too grossly for a time, to be superior,
To flatter the listeners by this, the intimate,
Betraying the intimate, but for the intimate,
To free myself of friendship’s necessity,
Fearing from time to time that they would hear,
Denounce me and reject me, say once for all
That they would never meet me, take my hands,
Speaking for old times’ sake and our common love.

What an unheard-of thing it is, in fine,
To love another and equally be loved!
What sadness and what joy! How cruel it is
That pride and wit distort the heart of man,
How vain, how sad, what cruelty, what need,
For this is true and sad, that I need them
And they need me. What can we do? We need
Each other’s clumsiness, each other’s wit,
Each other’s company and our own pride. I need
My face untamed, I need my wit, I cannot
Turn away. We know our clumsiness,
Our weakness, our necessities, we cannot
Forget our pride, our faces, our common love.

Advertisements