Today's poem is by Robert B. Shaw


The water, pure as any in a dream,
lapping his legs, the plump and purple fruit
tugging the bough down close enough for him
to smell the ripeness—these were practiced props.
They carried out their orders to the letter,
fleeing his reach of hunger or of thirst
as quickly as his muscles tensed and twitched,
as absolutely as his need struck home.
After the first couple of thousand years
it was predictable. Something less predictable
happened over the next few thousand to
his attitude (and this was very strange,
for isn't life eternal said to be
immutable?). So subtly it occurred,
he scarcely gauged the change but only knew
one day he didn't want them any more,
wouldn't have sunk his teeth into that plum
or guzzled down that teasing rivulet
for anything that anyone could pay him.
But he could never bring himself to act
accordingly, to own up to indifference.
Odd that desire's end should foster shame.
It was still punishment, but of an altered
character, to watch the dodgy, now
no-longer-tantalizing imps of appetite
playing their part as he in turn played his,
leaning to grab at the recycled fare
whose grip on his awareness still persisted
centuries after the last pang truly gnawed.
How else could he live up to his name?

Copyright © 2004 Robert B. Shaw All rights reserved
from Iron Horse Literary Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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