Oct 182014
Little Michele, little friend, little missed miss,
I'm readying a flapping knapsack to meet
the changes time has made to friendship,
and to hug what cannot change or pall
until death entreats a final retirement to all.
Little Michele, who first unveiled
the graven paths of Yosemite to me, the deep
crisp chiseled sky squared above
mendicant hikers filing up the Great Falls'
narrowing way!  Falls whose mists surround
me still, wooly polyester fluff of a winter coat
near as hair, as white as my new beard now
puffs in mirrors.  Sleep keeps you in Sacramento,
at rest from day-long hospice rounds
where time lies blanketed in neat-tucked beds,
while I wake in winter-gripped New Jersey
where houses huddle together against slush,
marooned amid mirrored sheets of old ice
that sweat slick at noon only to find the moon
skating re-hardened silvers nigh midnight
when all the over-busy Garden State is silent.

It is out of such silence that I write,
my bamboo desk turned tundra by the racing
moon that pulls at my recalcitrance like a leash.
I resist these dim hours of witting speech
when need and time conspire to eke forth words
for one both dearly near and distantly absent--
Right now, I'd rather sit speechless with thee,
brimful of meaning tears and politely quiet,
there in the granite dell where age elides to age,
our feet stuck out dry before the campfire, pines
leaning in inquisitive with the burst faces
of old men shouldering down for warmth,
myself yearly learning their wrinkled ways....

A tin wind tat-tats at the window-frame
as I adjust my terrycloth robe and note the snow
aswirl with words against the blackened panes;
how nature moves no matter how still we seem!
Even in this dead of night, I think again
what times we spent along the reeling shore--
bright trash wrestling the tideline, wrangled 
wrappers skidding in the static grip of sand,
a benediction in the beating surf perhaps
as we pointed out new futures for ourselves
beneath the dome of stars--the varied constellations'
lines growing real as we traced them,
the faces of two strangers maturing into friends.
Shall we walk and talk that way again
when California flits beneath my jumbo's wings,
after the soft halt and hiss of wheels on tarmac 
when your round mellow face emerges 
smiling from the airport parking lot?

After our fellowship of decades, I'm coming out
for your investiture as chaplain.  Long you tramped
the dismal ways of youth, pathless, a-thrist,
seeking in granite lanes for a seed--your spirit
at last made plain in hospice corridors:
hands and long-tried lives held to their denouement,
as when a low corner in close woods is turned
and Half Dome rises revealed, a pale presence
otherworldly as a planet, yet placed
in the same precincts as us, sharing the same
oft-shouldered air, in vestments streaked
by spring rain that scents all afresh.
So your chaplaincy seems to me, your old friend
winter-gripped and griping lonesomely,
getting to know again your slender grandeur--
the presence of a life made complete by purpose.

A life brimmed, and, at the brim, over-
filled till the light within quivers, quivers
even when some infinitesimal breath overplays
its tautened surface howsoever gently.
So, too, are you full, little Michele, so stretched
with love and life divine, a filled cup
of teary dews scooped from roaring falls
that navigate craggy canyon rocks with white work;
filled, too, with dews salted by New Jersey's ocean
where a child's barefoot steps stitched minuets
many sunny days beside the prolonging surf--
a young woman's hand I held in the dew-light
of the quick eternal moon as we walked
companionably at peace before the dawn.

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