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Robert Lowell - The Withdrawal

Only today and just for this minute,
when the sunslant finds its true angle,
you can see yellow and pinkish leaves spangle
our gentle, fluffy tree—
suddenly the green summer is momentary...
Autumn is my favorite season—
why does it change clothes and withdraw?

This week the house went on the market—
suddenly I woke up among strangers;
when I go into a room, it moves
with embarrassment, and joins another room.

I don't need conversation, but you to laugh with—
you and a room and a fire,
cold starlight blowing through an open window—

After sunfall, heaven is melodramatic,
a temporary, puckering, burning green.
The patched-up oak
and blacker, indelible pines
have the indigestible meagerness of spines.

One wishes heaven had less solemnity:
a sensual table
with five half-filled bottles of red wine
set round the hectic carved roast—
Bohemia for ourselves
and the familiars of a lifetime
charmed to communion by resurrection—
running together in the rain to mail a single letter,
not the chafe and cling
of this despondent chaff.

Yet for a moment, the children
could play truant from their tuition.

When I look back, I see a collapsing
accordion of my receding houses,
and myself receding
to a boy of twenty-five or thirty,
too shopworn for less, too impressionable for more—
blackmaned, illmade
in a washed blue workshirt and coalblack trousers,
moving from house to house,
still seeking a boy's license
to see the countryside without arrival.


terror in happiness may not cure the hungry future,
the time when any illness is chronic,
and the years of discretion are spent on complaint—

until the wristwatch is taken from the wrist.

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The Withdrawal - Comments and Information

Poet: Robert Lowell
Poem: The Withdrawal
Year: Published/Written in 1977
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