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COPYRIGHT Poem-a-Day Collection by Knopf. Compilation copyright 2009 by Knopf. All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.
Poems by John Updike
With what stoic delicacy does Virginia creeper let go: the feeblest tug brings down a sheaf of leaves kite-high, as if to say, To live is good but not to live—to be pulled down with scarce a ripping sound, still flourishing, still stretching toward the sun— is good also, all photosynthesis abandoned, quite quits. Next spring the hairy rootlets left unpulled snake out a leafy afterlife up that same smooth-barked oak.
Fine Point (12/22/08)
Why go to Sunday school, though surlily, and not believe a bit of what was taught? The desert shepherds in their scratchy robes undoubtedly existed, and Israel's defeats— the Temple in its sacredness destroyed by Babylon and Rome. Yet Jews kept faith and passed the prayers, the crabbed rites, from table to table as Christians mocked.
We mocked, but took. The timbrel creed of praise gives spirit to the daily; blood tinges lips. The tongue reposes in papyrus pleas, saying, Surely—magnificent, that "surely"— goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, my life, forever.