So many different kinds,
yet only one vague word.
And the Eskimos
with twenty-six words for snow,
such a fine alertness
to what variously presses down.
Yesterday I saw lovers
hugging in the street,
making everyone around them
feel lonely, and the lovers themselves —
wasn’t a deferred loneliness
waiting for them?
There must be words
for what our aged mothers, removed
in those unchosen homes, keep inside,
and a separate word for us
who’ve sent them there, a word
for the secret loneliness of salesmen,
for how I feel touching you
when I’m out of touch.
The contorted, pocked, terribly ugly man
shopping in the 24-hour supermarket
at 3 A. M. — a word for him —
and something, please,
for this nameless ache here
in this nameless spot.
If we paid half as much attention
to our lives as Eskimos to snow …
Still, the little lies,
the never enough.
No doubt there must be Eskimos
in their white sanctums, thinking
just let it fall, accumulate.