The Paradigm

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For when they meet, the tensile air
Like fine steel strains under the weight
Of messages that both hearts bear-
Pure passion once, now purest hate;

Till the taut air like a cold hand
Clasped to cold hand and bone to bone
Seals them up in their icy land
(A few square feet) where into stone

The two hearts turning quickly pass
Once more their impenetrable world;
So fades out each heart's looking-glass
Whose image is the surface hurled

By all the air; air, glass is not;
So is their fleeting enmity
Like a hard mirror crashed by what
The quality of air must be.

For in the air all lovers meet
After they've hated out their love;
Love's but the echo of retreat
Caught by the sunbeam stretched above

Their frozen exile from the earth
And lost. Each is the other's crime.
This is their equity in birth-
Hate is its ignorant paradigm.

© Allen Tate