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John Updike

And another regrettable thing about death
is the ceasing of your own brand of magic,
which took a whole life to develop and market —
the quips, the witticisms, the slant
adjusted to a few, those loved ones nearest
the lip of the stage, their soft faces blanched
in the footlight glow, their laughter close to tears,
their tears confused with their diamond earrings,
their warm pooled breath in and out with your heartbeat,
their response and your performance twinned.
The jokes over the phone. The memories packed
in the rapid-access file. The whole act.
Who will do it again? That’s it: no one;
imitators and descendants aren’t the same. 


“Perfection Wasted” by John Updike, a poem you’ll find along with more of his best in Collected Poems: 1953-1993.

Updike reflects on these issues in his excellent memoir, one of the best out there, Self-Consciousness: Memoirs.

More Updike: