It is very honorable to love a woman
In the spring, at midday, in the shade
Of the very long ago, which is only human,
And the weeping willow glade
Very possibly is Eden
In the middle of which transacted a trade
Which reminds us that, when the world began
Woman was contained in the side of man.
To be a snake is not very honorable
And yet he was the go-between.
And all of us, or those who are able
To see the truth instead of the fable,
At the center of it, or whatever I mean,
Has some part of him snake, liable
To tempt and be cursed, and crawl, having done,
Responsible for every mother’s son.
So love, why not, it is a very serious business,
And supports commerce, industry, wars,
Poetry, women, I am told, somewhat less
Than honorable, and leaves not scars
Which can’t be healed by the next generation, or mars
Anyone’s beauty sleep, permanently, and the princess
In the story awoke, and was alive. Now let the song,
Its singer, return to their beginning, end, where they belong.
This poem is reprinted from The Academy of American Poets, University and College Poetry Prizes, 1960-1966