by John Betjeman, 1906-1984
In a TV interview he gave in his old age, Betjeman was asked the conventional question: "Do you have any regrets?" Replied the poet: "Yes. I wish I'd had more sex." Well, it's never too late …
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• Text of the poem
My head is bald, my breath is bad,
Unshaven is my chin,
I have not now the joys I had
When I was young in sin.
I run my fingers down your dress
With brandy-certain aim
And you respond to my caress
And maybe feel the same.
But I've a picture of my own
On this reunion night,
Wherein two skeletons are shewn
To hold each other tight;
Dark sockets look on emptiness
Which once was loving-eyed,
The mouth that opens for a kiss
Has got no tongue inside.
I cling to you inflamed with fear
As now you cling to me,
I feel how frail you are my dear
And wonder what will be —
A week? or twenty years remain?
And then — what kind of death?
A losing fight with frightful pain
Or a gasping fight for breath?
Too long we let our bodies cling,
We cannot hide disgust
At all the thoughts that in us spring
From this late-flowering lust.