Poets don't grow old gracefully:
recall old lusts with Hardy
or clamour like Yeats for new.
"How are you?" people ask them, meaning
"Goodness, you're still alive."
"Are you still writing?" signals
"If so, you're quite forgotten.
I haven't seen any reviews,"
and "Aren't you going gently yet
into your good night?"
Gower, his loins frozen by Venus,
piped of a king and his bounty of wine.
Did he who'd sung of every turn and twist
of love regret the arrow's sting he'd begged
Love's priest to tear from his heart
as he lay apart from his chaste wife?
Merlin the magus, besotted in old age
entombed in the rock by Nimue for his lust
must have been a poet too.
How else could he have cast such spells?
When David was old they brought him a virgin
hoping for a new Song of Solomon.
Help us all then Lady, Sappho's own goddess,
to sing your song until the last bittersweet note.
Born in 1933, Duffy, a poet, playwright and novelist, has published dozens of books, including five volumes of poetry.