Ice Friday: John Updike’s “Perfection Wasted”

And another regrettable thing about death

is the ceasing of your own brand of magic,

which took a whole life to develop and market–

the quips, the witticisms, the slant

adjusted to a few, those loves ones nearest

the lip of the stage, their soft faces blanched

in the footlight glow, their laughter close to tears,

their tears confused with their diamond earrings,

their warm pooled breath in and out with your heartbeat,

their response and your performance twinned.

The jokes over the phone. The memories packed

in the rapid-access file. The whole act.

Who will do it again? That’s it: no one,

imitators and descendants aren’t the same.

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