The Old Flame


Robert Lowell reads "The Old Flame"
Category: Entertainment
License: Standard YouTube License


My old flame, my wife!
Remember our lists of birds?
One morning last summer, I drove
by our house in Maine. It was still
on top of its hill -

Now a red ear of Indian maize
was splashed on the door.
Old Glory with thirteen stripes
hung on a pole. The clapboard
was old-red schoolhouse red.

Inside, a new landlord,
a new wife, a new broom!
Atlantic seaboard antique shop
pewter and plunder
shone in each room.

A new frontier!
No running next door
now to phone the sheriff
for his taxi to Bath
and the State Liquor Store!

No one saw your ghostly
imaginary lover
stare through the window
and tighten
the scarf at his throat.

Health to the new people,
health to their flag, to their old
restored house on the hill!
Everything had been swept bare,
furnished, garnished and aired.

Everything's changed for the best -
how quivering and fierce we were,
there snowbound together,
simmering like wasps
in our tent of books!

Poor ghost, old love, speak
with your old voice
of flaming insight
that kept us awake all night.
In one bed and apart,

we heard the plow
groaning up hill -
a red light, then a blue,
as it tossed off the snow
to the side of the road.

Robert Lowell
“The Old Flame,” 1964

From Robert, Lowell, Collected Poems, edited by Frank Bidart and David Gewanter, with an Introduction by Frank Bidart (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), 2003

Robert Lowell reads “The Old Flame”
Category: Entertainment
License: Standard YouTube License