Tag Archives: The Old Flame

poets I’m reading: The Old Flame by Robert Lowell

Last night I was dipping into some of Robert Lowell‘s shorter pieces. I really enjoyed this one, written circa 1959. “…..there snowbound together, simmering like wasps in our tent of books!”….. is going into my list of ‘lines I’d like to have written’.


The Old Flame – Robert Lowell

My old flame, my wife!

Remember our list of birds?

One morning last summer, I drove

by our house in Maine. It was still

on top of its hill –


Now a red ear of Indian maize

was splashed on the door.

Old Glory with thirteen stars

hung on a pole. The clapboard

was old-red schoolhouse red.


Inside, a new landlord,

a new wife, a new broom!

Atlantic seaboard antique shop

pewter and plunder

shone in each room.


A new frontier!

No running next door

now to phone the sheriff

for his taxi to Bath

and the State Liquor Store.


No one saw your ghostly

imaginary lover

stare through the window,

and tighten

the scarf at his throat.


Health to the new people,

health to their flag, to their old

restored house on the hill!

Everything had been swept bare,

furnished, garnished and aired.


Everything’s changed for the best –

how quivering and fierce we were,

there snowbound together,

simmering like wasps

in our tent of books!


Poor ghost, old love, speak

with your old voice

of flaming insight

that kept us awake all night.

In one bed and apart,


we heard the plow

groaning up the hill –

a red light, then a blue,

as it tossed off the snow

to the side of the road.


The Norton anthology of modern poetry. 1973  W W Norton and Company, Inc.