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This poem is taken from PN Review 44, Volume 11 Number 6, July - August 1985.

Impotence Michael Hofmann

The dry electric heat of Cornwall turned us yellow
in a week . . . All that time, we didn't sweat
and I never touched you. Debility, cursed idleness,
I read slowly through my book of African stories.
The honeysuckle in the lanes came from some tropics,
and the strange, acidulous, blue-paper hydrangeas.
Farmers strung up crows as an example to others.
One afternoon, we lay down and slept in a warm mist.
That was our fourth holiday. Afterwards, I squatted
in your parents' house as your 'live-in lover' - a licit,
troublesome, almost unbearable state - while waiting
for our own place, the double or quits of living together.
I think those were your terms, the clannishness, amiability
and compromise of one roof . . . I hung around alone
while you went off to family weddings, and returned
in a gaggle of tradition and collective enchantment.
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