Louise Glück

The Ruse

They sat far apart
deliberately, to experience, daily,
the sweetness of seeing each other across
great distance. They understood

instinctively that erotic passion
thrives on distance, either
actual (one is married, one
no longer loves the other) or
spurious, deceptive, a ruse

miming the subordination
of passion to social convention,
but a ruse, so that it demonstrated
not the power of convention but rather

the power of eros to annihilate
objective reality. The world, time, distance–
withering like dry fields before
the fire of the gaze–

Never before. Never with anyone else.
And after the eyes, the hands.
Experienced as glory, as consecration–

Sweet. And after so many years,
completely unimaginable.

Never before. Never with anyone else.
And then the whole thing
repeated exactly with someone else.
Until it was finally obvious

that the only constant
was distance, the servant of need.
Which was used to sustain 
whatever fire burned in each of us.

The eyes, the hands–less crucial
than we believed. In the end
distance was sufficient, by itself.