I must love my enemies: I have made

so many of them. Whether I, drowning, flailed

rescuers, or, terrier-nervous, yapped,

defending God knows what from God knows whom,

or thought I was the jester, licensed to wound,

I drove you all away. I wanted room

 

to grow my crooked stem, so sprouted thorns,

or, as self-consuming candle, blindly burned

in guttering isolation, or vacuum-drained–

as a black hole does the sky–all warmth and light.

Emperor of sunny nursery play.

I took all as due, nor wondered how or why.

 

Pursuit of justice was a good excuse

to wear the jackboots of some public cause

and stab a friend for a stranger’s brief applause.

It simplified affection’s murky snarl

to make such clean incisions. I have hurled

babies and bathwater out for a better world.

 

fast too soon, my overwhelming wave

of self too bountiful, too gladly given.

To save yourselves from my self you were driven

if not to anger to politic escape.

I said I love you: you foresaw a rape.

 

You must have loved me, enemies, to have left.

dreading the waste and smother of my gift.

sensing my naked need to be received.

Hard love withholds indulgence; you withheld.

Such closeness both of us would soon have scalded.

You could avoid what could not be repelled.

 

Safer, of course, to love thus at a distance–

a dream of faces gone, but nearly kissed–

blending across the years without resistance.

yin lost in yang, and none knows when or how.

But there is safety even in my bower.

for I love you still–but do not need you now.