Oct 182014
 
Tonight I write you, Daniel, and cannot expect
quick reply, or even any the logic-laden world
would count as counter-speech!  Many the years
that have smoothed thy unsoothed grave, and given
unsure rest to you and those you loved;
stray waves of darkling violets shadow 
the stone that brackets your too-trim dates, 
that keeps a night-dim weight of white 
on death's uneasy guest.

Tonight I drove toward shore, the moon untombed,
and lean in summer damp debating words
to bury here beside you, as each year I do.
Melancholy mission!  Yet, with one so missed,
a comfort comes springing among the mists
of hurt--and words that feed the tubers
and the blooms that make the funeral dunes
their only home, may dissolve in service
where living words do fail....

                                 Dammit, Daniel,
forgiveness too eludes the language that I bring
to pile beside a corpse too gross to contemplate.
Long ago I ought to have been done with tears
and tirades, gashes in a golden mask as fine,
as final, as Tutankhamen's.  A beetle crawls
across my naked ankle until it tickles;
a gust of laughter bursts within me, and the echo
flattens against the small stucco church,
rough as sea-rock.  Who else is left to share
the visions we had voiced, pirouettes
of young spirits untiring as the playing spray?

And so I come to you, you the older brother,
appealing to you for wisdom--even from
a stone gone mossy.  Carved in memory,
I see the beginning kiss that came to stand
tall as your two kids, Troy and Pat,
whose limber adolescence sails as swift
as a catamaran's twin-hulled lullessness.
I have their father in my memory kept
packed bright and tight against the acid 
of childish questions.

                        "Lord Dermond,"
I'd called you--how many times across the years--
laughing-serious at the rightness of the royal
sound that crowned you above the cut of men
peering out their dusty place to lie and die.
Across the years we moved together,
bound not to night but to noon
as we loaded down the leaf-weight
of our birch-bark canoe, throwing
its long blade into the dirty light
of old Bowie Place's muddy reservoir 
where many an ancient branch bent to stir
reflectless shadowed waters, for us
as for the chanting indians who paddled
and left their slate arrowheads aslant a brook
for us to find and finger, with still-stinging-sharp 
edges to blood an unwary thumb.
Long the weightless hours drowned
in that floating stillness!  Long the lists
of lines sent echoing into the dusk,
hands alternately dragging, sweeping,
piling high light-lines of freshest wet
while poetry rolled boundless within us
and boundless trumpeted into nature's
leafy overhang.  No hand, no stirring,
now you rest forever who had sculled 
those waters--how many times?
Our paddles lie rotted behind the house;
and rotted out among the moss-backed oaks
the very vessel that had sustained
the high talk that made our friendship leap--
the reel of mutual thought unwound
like fishing line to catch what pulled us
heavenward and homeward.

Our kicked-off Keds crossed clumsily
in the uneven gully of the craft, running
no more than an angel's sandals might,
anchored crossed in passing clouds above.
Paradise had fallen with the late shafts
of butterfly afternoons;  page upon page
of distaff poems we let drift about the boat
serene as swans in the brown current;  flare
of sunset, and then, soaked, they swirled
black and unmoving on some low tarn of tar.
Night's dark amplitude had found
no fit answer to the sky's starred expanse.

Now my own prow creeps to ground again
on your death's bleak bank of bonded marble....
My beak of meaning gawps in agony,
a cadaver cannibal attempting to eat at
your sculpted David's sepulchred and whittled flesh.
The dune grass that springs afresh about you
whispers sweet of mere eternities unmet
that I shall never meet--as I shall never see
you again, good friend gone, befriending yet
my orphan heart tonight, keeping one
solitary flame aloft till greeny dawn.

These passing shapes and shadows please, 
but cannot ease what mind of mine attends 
the salt-sharp night, these ragged knees
kneeling in the hard sea-grass, in the wet
that leaves your grave at sea, and me at sea,
and makes the misty moon an albatross to shoot
with what words I yet may aim at heaven.
La!  an old man's thoughts, an old friend
lying before him, unadorned in dead earth--
I chew old bones of thought, while away
in the crash and wash of the restless surf, cloud-hid, 
a gull's hungry cry pierces repeatedly.


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