While I always admired his novels (favorite: The Centaur) and agree that "A&P" is one of the most important short stories ever written, I was always most moved by this heartbreak poem John Updike once published in the New Yorker:

Report of Health


I am alone tonight.
The wrong I have done you
sits like a sore beneath my thumb,
burns like a boil on my heart's left side.
I am unwell.

My viscera, long clenched in love of you,
have undergone a detested relaxation.

There is, within, a ghostly maze
of phantom tubes and nodules where
those citizens, our passions, flit; and here,
like sunlight passing from a pattern of streets,
I feel your bright love leaving.


Another night. Today I am told,
dear friend, by another,
you seem happy and well.
Nothing could hurt me more.

How dare you be happy, you,
shaped so precisely for me,
my cup and my mirror -
how dare you disdain to betray,
by some disarray of your hair,
my being torn from you?

I would rather believe
that you knew your friend would come to me,
and so seemed well -
"not a hair/out of place" -
like an actress blindly hurling a pose
into the fascinated darkness.

As for me, you are still the eyes of the air.
I travel from point to point in your presence.
Each unattended gesture hopes to catch your eye.


I may not write again. My voice
goes nowhere. Dear friend,
don't let me heal. Don't
worry, I am well.
I am happy
to dwell in a world whose Hell I will:

the doorway hints at your ghost
and a tiger pounces on my heart;
the lilac bush is a devil
inviting me into your hair.


The same week I bemoan the paucity of literary figures fit to read at a presidential inauguration, we lose one of the few.

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