Monday, June 2, 2008

"A Man And A Woman Sit Near Each Other" by Robert Bly

Over the weekend I attended a friend's wedding and a Robert Bly poem was read at the ceremony. The poem, "A Third Body,” was, as far as I can find, retitled “A Man and a Woman Sit Near Each Other” in Bly's 1986 Selected Poems, which means the poem pre-dates that, but I don't know how much. I don't have this poem in any of my anthologies so I had to resort to ferreting it out online where more than one version exists. I don't know which version was read at the ceremony, but this one will have to do.

A Man And A Woman Sit Near Each Other

A man and a woman sit near each other, and they do not long
at this moment to be older, or younger, nor born
in any other nation, or time, or place.
They are content to be where they are, talking or not-talking.
Their breaths together feed someone whom we do not know.
The man sees the way his fingers move;
he sees her hands close around a book she hands to him.
They obey a third body that they share in common.
They have made a promise to love that body.
Age may come, parting may come, death will come.
A man and a woman sit near each other;
as they breathe they feed someone we do not know,
someone we know of, whom we have never seen.

(Robert Bly)

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