Blighted Trees - Poem by gershon hepner
Like flowers in the spring, youth proves
that winter’s ended, and its bloom
can’t sense the distant horses’ hooves
that come to trample its perfume.
Like blighted trees, we’re doomed to die,
first at the top, although our roots
help us, when falling from the sky,
to greet the gloom without our boots.
Sexless, we lose all respect
from those we love, though we still cast
a shadow which they can’t dissect
till our life, like a day, has passed.
James Wood reviews “Exit Ghost” by Philip Roth in The New Yorker, October 15,2007:
Before his death, Jonathan Swift pointed to a blighted tree and said to a friend, “I shall be like that tree; I shall die first at the top.” Philip Roth’s dying animals, at loose in the twilit carnival of his late work, reverse Swift’s prophecy: they fear they will die from the bottom up. Their minds are ripe with sexual energy, with transgressive vitality, but their bodies are sour with decline. The aging David Kepesh, in “The Dying Animal, ” makes the mistake of growing infatuated with one of his many young conquests, and becomes the toy of her youthful sexual mastery. The elderly nameless protagonist of “Everyman, ” Roth’s previous novel, weakened by heart surgery, watches young women jogging along a New Jersey boardwalk, aware of the absurd disparity between his waxing mind and his waning body. He starts a foolishly flirtatious conversation with one of them, who then changes her route and never returns, “thereby thwarting his longing for the last great outburst of everything.”…
Suddenly, isolation in the Berkshires has given way to a “crazed hope of rejuvenation.” (The novel is set during the week of the election of 2004, and the bitter madness of those days is a kind of Forest of Arden in which Nathan’s antic moment can be played out.) Now Amy is pulled into the swirl, too, since Nathan must seek her out to hear her account of Lonoff’s “great secret.” He finds her in a grim walkup on First Avenue. Movingly, grotesquely, the dying woman who was once the object of Nathan’s desire has ceded her power to the thirty-year-old Jamie, and is now good only for the sexless respect of posterity. She will have a little place in literary history as Lonoff’s final partner, but there is no erotic gravitational pull on the seventy-one-year-old Nathan. Amy confirms Kliman’s hunch, but Nathan rejects the fact and, more important, the premise of the fact, which is that fiction can be read confessionally. If Lonoff was writing a novel about incestuous relations, Nathan argues, then that was the fiction he was making. A fiction, not a report. “Fiction for him was never representation, ” he tells Amy. “It was rumination in narrative form. He thought, I’ll make this my reality.”
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