While the Music Lasts: Poem to My Younger Self

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For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment… or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts.

T.S. Eliot
Four Quartets: Dry Salvages
5: 598-604

to my younger self

Each night, standing in the hallway at the open
door of the bedroom, I see you lying in the
fading light, his arms around you, your head on his

chest, his lips against your hair, and I want to tell
you how he takes your words — wrapped in ribbons of poems —
and gives them away to others. I want to tell

you how his own words change depending on whether
his sons’ crying woke him in the night, on whether
his first wife called again to complain that you have

moved into her house, on the color of some strange
woman’s eyes in the village market when she looks
up at the sound of his deep, burring voice. Standing

there each night in the hallway, I want to tell you
that one day, when his children are grown, they will seek
you out because you gave them seeds to plant in their

own corner of the garden, because you chased them
through piles of brittle autumn leaves, because they told
you they hated you more than they hated the sound

of their mother’s weeping. And they will offer you
their own children. Because you helped them build a fort,
so very long ago, in the cold and bitter

snow. Standing there each night, watching you sleep, I want
to tell you that he will do worse than meeting your
best friend three afternoons a week at motels while

you make dinner for him and his sons. One day, he
will toss out your heart with the coffee grounds, wrapped in
yesterday’s newspaper. Standing there in the dark,

leaning over you in the deep dark night, I start
to tell you, to whisper you all these things, but the
chill of the night air, the chime of the clock in the

downstairs hall, the look on your face when you open
your eyes to gaze at him lying there beside you,
and once again my tongue stumbles and goes still. The

unbearable weight of your happiness steals all
my words and buries them deep underground in some
faraway place, some place not marked on any map

but the map of our own heart, some faraway place
where you will have to find these words and dig them up
yourself, one day, many years from now, on your own.

“While the Music Lasts: Poem to My Younger Self”
originally appeared as part of my interview about
poetry, fiction, and creative writing
with Benjamin Thomas @TheWritingTrain
This poem does not appear in Love in the Time of Dinosaurs

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© 1980-1986, 2000-2007, 2013, 2017 by Alexandria Constantinova Szeman.
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