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.