XII. I Cannot Live With You


I cannot live with you,
It would be life,
And life is over there
Behind the shelf

The sexton keeps the key to.
Are you small enough
To live on a shelf
Among the cups,

Saucers, and bowls,
Some dangerously chipped?
If you’re as big as a straw,
They could kill you.

I could not die with you,
For one of us must wait
To load th’ other’s body on a plate
For the sexton to take.

I would have to go first
Because though you could lift me,
You are salt-shaker size
And I couldn’t move thee.

Nor could I rise with you,
For your larger face
They would see first
At the pearly gates

And I would be forced
To yell out “Hey!”
Before they deigned
To look my way.

They’d judge us – how?
Our lives are hard,
Our pastime consists of playing
With pottery shards,

And sometimes napkin shreds,
And though we suck on stains of wine,
Our nature drunk
Is never mean, but kind.

And were you lost, I would be—
By which I mean, well,
I’d feel bad in Heaven
If you were in H-E-double L.

And were you saved,
And I condemned to be
Where you were not:
Please write to me.

So we must keep apart.
You there, I here.
I where I’m able,
You on the table,
Spending our lives
Avoiding forks
And, especially, knives!


One of her greats. The original and some analysis.

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