Sometimes the poem sings when you say it, and then sings more when you say it again. Take these lines: “Forget the years that only grow harder/as the soul recedes in what the years bring.” I hear it and say, “Yes, I’ve been there.” And you feel a bit of sorrow at how you’ve changed. You wonder why the poem has taken you to such sadness. But the singing keeps going, and you’re now like Lenny Williams, crying, “Oh, I love you, baby,” into some night. And saying: “Touch me. As I am. As you can./My heart a bird’s heart just beyond your hand.” Selected by Reginald Dwayne Betts
By Christian Wiman
In the end we love the line love cannot cross.
In the end we fall for what we fail.
Forget friendship. Ardor.
Forget the years that only grow harder
as the soul recedes in what the years bring,
grown alien to any touchable thing.
Touch me. As I am. As you can.
My heart a bird’s heart just beyond your hand.
after Anna Akhmatova
Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet and a lawyer. He created Freedom Reads, an initiative to curate microlibraries and install them in prisons across the country. His latest collection of poetry, “Felon,” explores the post-incarceration experience. His 2018 article in The New York Times Magazine about his journey from teenage carjacker to working lawyer won a National Magazine Award. Christian Wiman is the author, most recently, of ‘‘Survival Is a Style’’ (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020).