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Love and Sex
The main theme of the poem is the failure of love. The title hints at the story that unfolds, much of which is not stated explicitly but lies under the surface. “Reunions” suggests that in the relationship between this couple, there is a pattern of partings and reunions. The word “ghost” possibly refers to the man, who is only a ghost of what the woman once thought him to be (perhaps when she first fell in love with him). “Ghost” may also refer to the relationship itself, which is just a shadow of what it once was and continues in spite of the fact that, at least from the woman’s point of view, there is no rationale for its continued existence.

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Perhaps the theme might also be described as the hostility of intimacy, since although the word love is used, it does not seem to characterize the relationship, at least as it exists in the time frame in which the poem takes place. The woman seems to have only contempt for her drunken, complaining lover, with his self-pitying attitude and his demand for sympathy. However, she does show love in one particular gesture, and that is when she touches the scar that for the man is the visible sign of the fact that the world (so he appears to believe) has not dealt with him fairly. This is an act of acceptance on the part of the woman. It seems to say that she accepts him for what he is, and perhaps by doing that she seeks to make him whole once more, for there is no doubt that she loved him once, since she says as much. As she touches the scar, he shivers, as if she has indeed touched a vital core of him; she has reached him where his pain lies deepest. The man is obviously a wounded personality, riddled with guilt over something that happened in his childhood that was probably not his fault and over which he had no control. No doubt that guilt is deeply embedded in him, giving him low self-esteem and chronic insecurity.

But the impression the poem gives is that this gesture of touching the scar is something of a ritual between them: he whines about his circumstances, she comforts, consoles, and touches. They make love and all is healed for a short while. But then the troubles start again. This is certainly what happens in the sexual act described in the poem. Sex is just an escape, a temporary mask that covers the sadness at the heart of this relationship, which has reached a point at which it cannot continue any longer (although the man has yet to realize this). At least the physical act of sex provides some temporary exhilaration for this troubled couple, freeing them from their usual boundaries (“we just go on and on tumbling through space”), but even in this there is disappointment....

(The entire section contains 731 words.)

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Critical Essays